UN agencies begin processing at Matamoros, Mexico
MATAMOROS, Mexico, February 24, 2021—UN agencies today will begin to prepare individuals and families in the informal camp in Matamoros, Mexico for entry to the United States in line with the U.S. plan to terminate a policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that forced asylum-seekers to wait for their U.S. immigration hearings in Mexico.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on Wednesday begins in-person registration of an estimated 750 people who have been living in the informal camp at Matamoros. A first group could be permitted to enter the United States later this week, pending authorization from U.S. authorities, who decide who will enter and when.
In addition to registration by UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is conducting COVID-19 tests to ensure protection of public health while the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is ensuring humane treatment of children and their families.
This action from UN agencies comes at the request of the U.S. and Mexican governments to assist with the re-entry into the United States of an estimated 25,000 people who have active immigration proceedings in the U.S. but were returned to wait in Mexico under the MPP program.
Both governments have prioritized the Matamoros camp due to the difficult humanitarian conditions there. Other individuals with active MPP cases residing outside the Matamoros camp will also be processed.
Following termination of the MPP program, a first group with active MPP cases entered the United States on February 19 at the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego.
UNHCR, IOM and UNICEF support the termination of the MPP program and the addressing of the grave humanitarian situation of the thousands of people who have been waiting at the United States-Mexico border since as early as 2019.
In coordination with U.S. authorities, UNHCR established a website www.conecta.acnur.org through which people with active MPP cases are registering for processing. The website was launched February 19 and registered around 12,000 people in its first three days of operation. The website has been supplemented by alternative registration channels including email, social media and telephone channels.
In addition to COVID-19 testing, IOM is also responsible for coordinating the transportation of persons to designated ports of entry. So far, no cases of COVID-19 have been detected. UNICEF offers support for the most vulnerable child protection cases, defending family unity and offering information to families and children. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Mexican Red Cross together offer free telephone calls to allow asylum-seekers to maintain contact with their families before crossing into the United States.
UNHCR, IOM and UNICEF reiterate that, according to the new U.S. government policy, all persons with active cases under the MPP program will be able to enter the country to continue their immigration proceedings and lodge asylum claims. The dates and points of entry to the United States for persons who have already completed registration are determined by the U.S. government. All individuals who qualify will be processed based upon the order determined by the U.S. and not based on the date when they pre-register with UNHCR using the website or the hotline.