TSF helps Mexico refugees tackle Coronavirus pandemic

TSF helps Mexico refugees tackle Coronavirus pandemic

06 May 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The telecoms industry is helping refugees and migrants in Mexico cope with the effects of Coronavirus.

Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF), the industry’s global aid charity, has been adapting its eight centres across the country to help contain the pandemic and to inform the people using the centres.

Armando Samayoa, TSF’s representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “The project in Mexico is now more relevant than ever, given that vulnerable populations are the ones the most affected by this pandemic.”

Mexico has 23,471 confirmed infections and 2,154 virus-related deaths, and the government has declared a state of health emergency and banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

Samayoa added: “Being able to transmit all relevant information regarding Covid-19 and how to stay safe has become essential for everyone, and through this project we give that opportunity to migrants and refugees in Mexico.”

Mexico is a transit country for migrants, often from Central America, who are forced to leave their places of origin for survival or economic reasons. Thousands return to the country each year, either to stay there or to reach the US. Their need for access to information becomes even more vital.

The organisation has set up screens (see lead picture) at the migrant centres to pass on information.

Alcides, in charge of screens at the Palenque migrant shelter, said: “TSF enriches the information for migrants and enables the shelter to share information. There is empathy between TSF and the people in the shelters. We feel supported. You are always available and open to share information.”

The screens provide information to around 700 migrants every day, taking information on Covid-19 from expert institutions in the field.

Juan Carlos, administrator of the Tapachula migrant shelter in Mexico, said: “For migrants, information technologies are very important, so they can communicate with their relatives and be informed both in social networks and in the informative screens.”

In addition the screens give migrants and refugees information on their rights, as well as details of administrative buildings and embassies – and general information on routes, since some can be dangerous.

Juan Carlos added: “Since the pandemic, asylum seekers spend more time in front of the screen and are getting more of the information displayed on the screen. They are getting useful information about the pandemic and the situation in Mexico and neighbouring countries.”

TSF, based in southern France but with regional bases across the world, is supported by Capacity Media and a number of carriers in the industry – including Inmarsat, the Vodafone Foundation, Eutelsat and AT&T.

In the US, Friends of TSF helps to fund TSF’s humanitarian programmes – and businesses and individuals can benefit from a tax deduction on their donations. In the UK, TSF is registered with the national tax authority, so that citizens and businesses can extend their donations through gift aid.