“What I enjoy most is seeing the faces of migrants when they leave the shelter. They arrive with pain and sadness, because many have been brutally assaulted, but when they leave, the look on their faces changes; one notices a kind of serenity in them because they have realised that there are still people they can trust”.
Guadalupe Gonzáles Aguirre works for an Oxfam project that provides shelter, food and legal advice to migrants in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Initially, Guadalupe arrived at Casa Migrante San Juan de Dios, in Irapuato, only to provide legal advice but soon afterwards, she realised that on top of the legal advice, it was important to treat people in a warmer and closer manner; people who decide to take the long road north, looking for opportunities their own country has not given them.
“Before, there was no place in Irapuato for transmigrants to rest, shower or eat. I used to see them on the tracks and I asked myself, ‘How can there be no place to tend to these people?’”
As a human rights lawyer, one of her jobs is to make formal complaints of all abuses transmigrants are subjected to during their journey. As she has said, she “does whatever it takes”, and as a result she receives many threats. Despite the danger in what she does, she continues to get involved—increasingly so—in her work to get a different type of reward.
As Guadalupe knows all too well, transmigrants need someone to listen to them and give them tools to move forward; that’s a fact. Their journey through the country is fraught with peril and it is almost impossible for them to cross Mexico without being attacked in one way or another.
Every year, 400,000 undocumented people from Central America transit through Mexico in order to get to the USA. There are different routes but the freight-train route, known as “la Bestia”, is the most dangerous route in the continent. There is a network of 65 houses for migrants that provide help and protection to this vulnerable group, including shelter, food, health, psychosocial services, and legal advice.
The Oxfam project supports human rights advocates in three important stops in the State of Guanajuato, namely Irapuato, Salamanca and Celaya. This “Support and protection to defenders of migrants in very risky situations in Guanajuato” programme—supported by the European Union—aims for human rights advocates to have more technical and organisational skills to better serve transmigrants in a safer context for both advocates and transmigrants in shelters.
Photo: Consuelo Pagaza/Oxfam
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