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US border crisis is born of failed climate and migration policies

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There is a growing humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, in Reynosa – a small Mexican town directly across the border from McAllen, Texas.

Over the years, I’ve worked in some of the world’s largest, toughest and most desolate refugee camps, where hundreds of thousands of people are forced to live in dismal conditions without any humanitarian protections as they wait to claim asylum in neighbouring countries. Today, the situation in the migrant encampment in Reynosa, housing thousands of migrants hoping to claim asylum in the US, is no different.

Approximately 5,000 migrants are currently living in a squalid makeshift camp situated in Reynosa’s Plaza de la Republica – a park by the footbridge connecting the US and Mexico. The camp, lacking any health and sanitation infrastructure, has experienced several COVID-19 outbreaks, but its residents still do not have access to health services or adequate tools to protect themselves from the virus. Reynosa’s only migrant shelter that has some infrastructure, the 14-year-old Senda de Vida, recently won a temporary injunction to block a demolition order by the local government. This shelter, however, is already at capacity, housing some 600 asylum seekers. So new arrivals have no real option other than taking shelter at the squalid unofficial encampment in the plaza.

On the other side of the country, at the El Chaparral encampment in the town of Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego, California, a further 2,000 migrants are trying to survive in similarly abysmal conditions.

I recently visited both camps to speak with Central American, Haitian and other migrants residing there. They told me that they decided to seek safety in the US due to compounding crises of violence, poverty, persecution and, increasingly, climate change in their home countries. After listening to their stories, I couldn’t help but once again remember a talking point that I have grown weary of repeating over the years: global governance has not kept pace with displacement dynamics and climate change.

Indeed, the growing humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border was in no way inevitable. The US itself has created, and is now perpetuating, this crisis by insisting on implementing short-sighted and ineffectual migration and environmental protection policies.

Since the........

© Al Jazeera

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