Mexico is increasingly a destination for refugees and migrants, rather than as a source or country of transit. In 2021, there were a record-breaking number of asylum claims, 131,448, primarily from Honduras and El Salvador but also Haiti and Cuba, among others. In addition, the number of Venezuelans displaced abroad that began arriving in 2018 has reached over 60,000.
Data from two rounds of a phone survey conducted by UNHCR and IPA between March and September 2021 – comparable to a similar survey by the World Bank on nationals – provides insight on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health, livelihoods and general vulnerability of persons of concern (PoC) to UNHCR, as well as their nearby host community.
By September 2021, 15% of respondent households have experienced a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Around 25% of respondents report having received a COVID-19 vaccination, with far fewer persons of concern vaccinated compared to the host community.
The economic impact of the pandemic has been severe, with 68% of all respondents reporting lower family income in round 1 compared to pre-COVID times. Financial insecurity remains pronounced, with 56% of persons of concern and 42% of host community respondents saying they were forced to deplete assets or rely on others to meet daily needs. Three out of 4 reported having no bank or mobile savings accounts.
Food insecurity remains high particularly for Honduran and Salvadoran refugees and asylumseekers, with around 57% reporting an adult skipping a meal in the last week in round 2 compared to just 20% of nationals in the final round of the World Bank survey in 2020.
Despite these prevalent needs, food- and cash-based support fell between February and September 2021. Similarly, requests for government support are less common in round 2, and 70% are rejected with most others pending.
Honduran and Salvadoran households are notably worse off compared to the Venezuelan population as well as the host community along nearly all measures, which is indicative of their overall worse socioeconomic profile and concentration in the generally more marginalized Southern area of Mexico.