“I just need a place where I can live in peace,” exclaimed a Casa Solidarity Lodging guest, reflecting on his long journey to find refuge.
Over these past few months, the world has turned its attention to the exodus of millions of people escaping from Syria’s brutal civil war. Here in Mexico, we are facing a refugee crisis of our own, one that has simmered for years and is now finally receiving more attention from the international community as it worsens.
Since the Casa began offering temporary emergency housing to migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers through its Solidarity Lodging Program in 2009, we have seen a steady increase in the number of asylum-seekers in Mexico. Over the past few years, the number of Hondurans and Salvadorans that have applied for this legal status has increased exponentially.
We are seeing that they are no longer the “classic” migrant that wants to go the US to get a better job. Instead, we hear again and again, “I didn’t leave because I’m looking for a better job in the North, I’m running away because they were going to kill me if I stayed.” According to a study done by Mexican migrant shelters, half of all Central Americans traveling through Mexico are now refugees. Meanwhile conditions in Mexico for refugee safety are worsening.
Last Sunday’s New York Times included an article by Sonia Nazario entitled “The Refugees at Our Door,” which chronicles the brutal new anti-migration tactics Mexico has been using this past year to prevent Central Americans from traveling in Mexico. This policy change has made the Casa’s work even more critical, as safe spaces for migrants and refugees are still few and far between.
One of our Solidarity Lodging guests this year was human-rights defender from El Salvador. He barely escaped death while witnessing his friends and co-workers gunned down and murdered by gang members. He fled to a city on Mexico’s southern border to seek refugee status, but was threatened there too.
Now he is here with us at the Casa as one of our Solidarity Lodging guests, starting to find ways to cope with the many losses and trauma he has experienced while also working toward an independent life in Mexico City. With us, he has finally found a safe and welcoming community of support.
So far this year, we have offered temporary emergency housing and accompaniment to 21 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Honduras, Russia, Ukraine, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Haiti, Ghana and Cameroon.
Casa de los Amigos has worked diligently for six years to create not only a safe space in the Casa for those in need, but also a safe space in Mexico City. Our Solidarity Lodging Program, supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Casa supporters like you, has grown stronger as we have gained expertise. Working with a team of partner organizations, we helped to found the shelter Tochan, which now houses 15 to 20 long-term asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants at a time. Our work now serves as a reference point for organizations in other parts of the country that are looking to build similar networks and shelters based on our collaborative model.
We love the Casa and we know you do too! As conditions for migrants in Mexico worsen, as more and more people are deported back to their home countries despite the violence, we need to continue strengthening our solidarity. We need to show the face of hope. The Casa is a space where joy and light still shine through so much hardship.
Click here to make a contribution today and please contact us if you have any questions or want to learn more. As always, mil gracias for all of your support.
En paz y amistad,
Hayley and the Casa team