HAITI / MEXICO – As the humanitarian crisis in Haiti has resulted in mass external displacement, leading thousands of people to journey through Mexico in the search for safety, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) identified access to reliable information, food, and safe housing as the main needs for both, those in transit and requesting asylum in the country.
During the first quarter of 2023, the IRC conducted a rapid assessment to diagnose the main needs of Haitians moving through Mexico’s migration corridors. After interviewing household leaders that represented 450 people, the IRC found that most of them had been in the country for less than three months and over 90% reported not having a steady income to cover basic needs.
Rafael Velásquez, country director for Mexico at the IRC, said:
“Mexico’s strategic role in the response to the displacement crises from all over the world is undeniable. The country has tried to offer protection measures for both, thousands of asylum seekers trying to make it to the US in the search for safety as well as for many who consider it a potential destination.
“Unfortunately, the latter is not the case for everyone, as for some nationalities, including Haitians, there are more obstacles that range from struggling to access basic services to encountering lower success rates in asylum applications. With a historic number of people in need of international protection arriving and displacing throughout the country, the protection systems are overstretched. In general, the people that we surveyed in the south and in Mexico City perceived these locations as relatively safe but, for those in northern border cities, the reality is different.
“In fact, less than 20 percent of the people we surveyed in the city of Matamoros felt safe. More support and funding from the international community are essential to strengthen the asylum and protection systems to respond to their most urgent needs, regardless of their condition.”
The priority needs that the IRC identified among Haitians displaced through Mexico were:
Information: According to 73 percent of participants in the assessment, finding information that was reliable, clear, and available in Creole was a challenge, especially in relation to legal immigration in the US and Mexico, as well as fact-checking rumors and details on services and rights in Mexico.
Safe housing: For 70 percent of people, housing was a primary need. Unlike other groups–including internally displaced Mexicans–Haitians were less likely to live in shelters due to factors such as lack of information about access, language barriers, discrimination, and, in addition, limited shelter capacity. Although some Haitians reported renting rooms, not having a steady income means many end up living on the streets, in makeshift camps, or in overcrowded spaces.
Food: Nearly half of the surveyed people (45%) expressed needing help to cover their nutrition needs. For those who said they had access to food there were still challenges: 72 percent expressed it was either not culturally adequate or insufficient to cover health and developmental needs, particularly affecting pregnant and lactating people, as well as newborns and young children.
The IRC’s response in Mexico
Currently, the IRC is responding along the main migration corridors in Mexico, from the southern to the northern borders. The IRC’s programs offer a timely and comprehensive response to the most urgent needs of people on the move, including economic recovery and development; mental health and psychosocial support; child protection; multipurpose cash assistance to meet people’s basic needs; prevention and response to gender-based violence; access to critical information through InfoDigna, a multi-channel information platform; as well as identifying needs and referring cases to local service providers. Additionally, the IRC is supporting local integration efforts by providing cultural orientation to individuals who have chosen to stay in Mexico.
In response to the increasing number of Haitian asylum seekers in Mexico, the IRC has launched a tailored response, which includes ensuring access to information and referrals to service providers through InfoDigna and an emergency mobile unit in southern Mexico, as well as the creation of content in Haitian Creole. Additionally, the IRC is providing multipurpose cash assistance directly and through partners in Matamoros, Mexico City, Tapachula, and Tijuana so that families can decide how to cover their priority needs.