Imagine escaping horrific violence and arriving to a new country with merely the clothes on your back. No money, no job prospects, and no access to a community or a network that can help you rebuild your life. What do you do?
This is the situation for thousands of people fleeing organized crime and gang violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America and seeking safety in neighboring countries. People like Natalia and her son Mario.
Natalia and Mario were forced to flee El Salvador after Mario was threatened with death for refusing to join one of El Salvador’s violent gangs.
With no other option, they escaped to Mexico.
When they arrived, Natalia and Mario faced many challenges. Where would they live? How would they earn money? How would they protect themselves from arrest, detention and deportation back to El Salvador?
Fortunately, Natalia and Mario connected with Asylum Access lawyers. They received legal aid and accompaniment during the Refugee Status Determination process and were eventually recognized as refugees. But guarantees on paper are only as good as the commitment of institutions and communities to make them a reality.
Even with status, Natalia and Mario still did not have a stable place to live, and could not find safe, well-paid work.
Thousands of refugees in Mexico face this challenge: they have escaped violence in their home, survived a treacherous journey to find safety, have settled in a new community, but there are few resources to help them rebuild their lives meaningfully.
Asylum Access established Mexico’s first Hospitality Route to create more welcoming communities for refugees. The Hospitality Route creates movement among all sectors of society to share the message of “welcome” to refugees in Mexico. It brings together businesses, NGOs, government and academic institutions, individuals, artists and others to generate opportunities for refugees so that they can contribute to the social, cultural and economic fabric of society.
Natalia and Mario were some of the first beneficiaries of the Hospitality Route program. They now have full-time employment, rent their own apartment, and are saving money. They are no longer hiding in the shadows, in constant fear. They don’t have to rely on humanitarian handouts. They can rebuild their lives meaningfully.
Thanks to our partner Home Storytellers, Natalia and Mario’s story will be told in a short documentary film early in 2019.