The U.S. has sent more than 51,000 asylum seekers to wait in dangerous border towns in Mexico as it advises its own citizens not to travel to those regions because of the severe threat of kidnapping, murder and violent crime, The Guardian reports. Advocates have warned about the dangers of Remain in Mexico, or Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), since the program was announced in January. Their warnings grew louder this week after a report by Human Rights First said there were at least 340 reports of rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent attacks against people returned to Mexico while they wait for their case to be heard in U.S. immigration court.
Ursela Ojeda of the Women’s Refugee Commission who has visited the border to see how the policy is being implemented, said the new report was the “tip of the iceberg.” “When you see people not showing up for their court hearing in Remain in Mexico, you have to wonder what happened to the people who aren’t there,” Ojeda said. “There is no way to know why they just missed court – they could have been kidnapped, they could have been killed, they could have been put on a bus by the Mexican government and shoved to another part of the country with no way to get back.” Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, acting head of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Mark Morgan, ignored questions about what the U.S. was doing to address the violence facing people sent back to Mexico. “We’re trying to overcome the message that the cartels have been putting out there that it’s going to be a free ride into the United States,” Morgan said. “We’re now sending the message that, if you’re coming here as an economic migrant, you’re not going to be allowed into the United States.”