Casa del Migrante is a Place of Hope for Migrants in Guatemala - CARE

Casa del Migrante is a Place of Hope for Migrants in Guatemala

All photos by Sandra Sebastian/CARE

All photos by Sandra Sebastian/CARE

As numbers of migrants from Central America to the U.S. and Mexico continue to increase, local organizations in countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador are working to provide support.

As numbers of migrants from Central America to the U.S. and Mexico continue to increase, local organizations in countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador are working to provide support as well as help build up livelihoods and opportunities to help people avoid having to make the difficult, and often perilous, decision to migrate.

Casa del Migrante (Migrants’ House) in Guatemala City, provides assistance to migrants who are passing through, as well as asylum seekers, internally displaced people, deportees, and returnees from the United States and Mexico. The organization has assisted over 50,000 migrants since 2018 — 3,000 in 2021 so far.

CARE has been supporting Casa del Migrante’s work with hygiene and biosafety kits for people on the move at its facilities in Guatemala City and Tecún Umán on the Mexico border since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

50000

migrants

have found support at Casa del Migrante since 2018

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Casa del Migrante in Guatemala and El Salvador says, “Migrants teach us to live with very little, to dream, not to give up and to persevere on the journey.”

When it first opened, the organization provided basic care and food for migrants stopping briefly in Guatemala City on their journey north. “Over time we saw that the migrants needed more, and that their needs differed,” Verzeletti says.

In Guatemala and across Central America, people are forced to migrate for a mixture of reasons including economic conditions, threats and violence, family members seeking reunification or relatives who’ve disappeared along the different migration routes.

According to Ligia Reyes, coordinator of the International Protection Program at the Casa del Migrante, “violence, mainly in Honduras and El Salvador, forces people to move, but they don’t want to leave their places of origin. It isn’t the American dream they are moving for, but the need to survive.”

Father Mauro Verzeletti, Director of the Casa del Migrante in Guatemala
Ligia Reyes, coordinator of the International Protection Program at the Casa del Migrante

“They all bring their stories. They leave their families and their countries, suffering from the stress of the journey and despair, so it is essential to support them emotionally. Emotional stability allows them to make the best decisions that are significant for their future.”

“We want everyone knowing about the protection mechanisms and we provide them with advice for that proceeding.”

Mebel Mejía, from Honduras, and her 4-year-old son Mateo, are among those receiving support in ‘Casa del Migrante’.

She left Honduras in 2012 when she was just 17 years old. Insecurity and the threats she received from gangs forced her to take refuge in Guatemala, where she is now trying to seek asylum.

"They all bring their stories. They leave their families and their countries, suffering from the stress of the journey and despair, so it is essential to support them emotionally."

Ligia Reyes

Since she arrived, she’s worked in informal sales, but dreams of a job that can provide her with a secure livelihood and documentation, so she no longer has to live in constant fear of being deported.

“Here I have found a place that provides me with shelter. This country has welcomed me and given me protection, but I need papers to be able to fend for myself,” she says.

Casa del Migrante faced huge difficulties at the beginning of the pandemic. Restrictions on movement imposed by the government, forced them to find other spaces for people who had to remain in quarantine and comply with lockdown.

Mebel Mejía, from Honduras, and her 4-year-old son Mateo, are among those receiving support in Casa del Migrante.  
Inside Casa del Migrante

At the beginning of the pandemic, they had to close for a month and a half. But despite this, they still managed to receive migrants who came to ask for help at the door, giving them food, a safety kit and medical supplies.

Despite these challenges, the center recently managed to rent a building they use as an annex. They accommodate about 100 people daily in the main building and the annex.

It is estimated that as a result of the pandemic, one million more people will be living in poverty in Guatemala, adding to the 10 million people who are already living in poverty.

The impact of climate events adds to this, with thousands of people who lost their crops, land and other assets forced to migrate as the only alternative to survive.

For Verzeletti, “Migration cannot be contained with words. Migration is contained by public policy, state investments, and differentiated policies for the poor, the marginalized and the excluded.”