“If I stayed in Honduras, I was going to die,” said José Medrano (not his real name), a 31-year-old man with a physical disability and a wheelchair user I met last week in a shelter for asylum seekers and migrants in Mexico City. He complained of his home country’s lack of rehabilitation services and substandard medical treatment.
José is among hundreds of Central Americans heading to the United States-Mexico border as part of what is being called the first “migrant caravan” of 2019. He is one of many people with disabilities traveling through Mexico to the US.
José told me that although the shelter staff provide him with adequate medication and supplies, he is having difficulty getting food. He has spinal cord and digestive tract injuries resulting from a car accident in 2009 and requires a diet of soft foods. The shelter provides only one meal choice, which regularly includes meat. Sometimes Medrano only ate one meal a day and ate with difficulty.
On his way to the US, José will travel through different cities and stop at numerous shelters to rest and recover from the long walks. When I visited Tijuana in December 2018, I saw firsthand what might await him at these other stops. People with disabilities I encountered in two different shelters in Tijuana faced serious challenges in accessing basic services, including food and sanitary facilities.
Mexico made a commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to protect persons with disabilities in emergency situations, ensuring they have access to services on an equal basis with others. Mexico should ensure it is identifying asylum seekers and migrants with disabilities, to provide them with accessibility and personal assistance.
“Migration from Central America will not stop,” Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission President Nashieli Ramírez acknowledged recently. He is right. Federal and State authorities in Mexico should honor their international commitment and work to protect all persons with disabilities, including asylum seekers and migrants.