A project by non-profit partners to provide better shelter in Matamoros, Mexico for asylum seekers
When the US authorities introduced MPP, the so called Migrant Protection Protocol, it was with the understanding that Mexico would provide for the basic needs of asylum seekers remaining in Mexico. So far, that has not happened and thousands of families are living in squalor in Mexican border towns.
buys a shelter for a family
funds shipping and build costs
Dignity Village is a project to establish a temporary, safer, more sanitary refuge for asylum seekers living at the base of the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Dignity Village will be a temporary facility built with temporary structures so that the area can be returned to its original use once the current emergency situation is resolved.
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provides a raised floor
Help Team Brownsville and other NGOs upgrade the living conditions in Matamoros from tents to hard walled structures to provide better temporary housing for asylum seekers stuck in Mexico.
The IKEA Foundation has create the "Better Shelter" a purpose built refugee housing unit that can be deployed to any location on the planet and assembled by a few people in a few hours. Dignity Village will be a temporary camp - within eyesight of the international bridge - where asylum seekers can be safer, cleaner, healthier.
Current conditions for families in the makeshift camp are desperate. The area lacks adequate housing, sanitation, and fresh-water.
Families are reluctant to leave the area around the bridge due to concerns about safety, access to the port of entry for court appointments, and because they rely on volunteers for day to day sustenance they fear would be unavailable further from the bridge.
Dignity Village is a project to alleviate these issues with temporary improvements to the area surrounding the bridge by constructing temporary, portable structures capable of withstanding the winter weather and providing adequate shelter and sanitation for the families.
The project is sponsored by a consortium of NGO aid agencies under the leadership of Catholic Charities.
Misioneras de Jesus, in partnership with Catholic Charities RGV, and a committee of NGOs will operate Dignity Village as a welcoming temporary home for those seeking asylum and temporarily in Matamoros awaiting a chance to make an asylum claim at the US Port of Entry in Brownsville, or for those returned to Mexico to wait for a court date in the US while enrolled in MPP. Dignity Village will welcome all asylum seekers who meet these criteria regardless of age, faith, nationality, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or political persuasion.
Dignity Village, although operated under the management of Misioneras de Jesus, is an interfaith effort welcoming participation and contributions from people and groups of all religious backgrounds.
Dignity Village will establish an advisory committee made up of volunteers from the asylum seeker community and management will consult this committee on matters of importance to the group, major decisions, and policies.
Dignity Village will hold monthly public meetings to welcome feedback from residents of Matamoros and hear suggestions and answer questions.
Dignity Village is committed to providing for the safety and human dignity of asylum seekers during their temporary stay in Matamoros.
Dignity Village will provide five fundamental services to residents of the village.
Safe Drinking Water
Dignity Village Operating Partner Organizations will provide additional services including:
Basic Hygiene Supplies
Education for the children
Basic Health Services
Partners providing services in Dignity Village will operate under written agreements with Misioneras de Jesus that establish a shared code of conduct respected by all partners.
For a list of participating partners, please see Appendix I.
The primary housing stock planned for Dignity VIllage is based on the IKEA Foundation “Better Shelter” which has been used in refugee camps throughout the world since 2014. These simple structures which can be assembled in less than an hour by two people, provide shelter for up to five persons per structure. The units are portable and can be relocated as necessary.
Figure 1: Better Shelters at a transit camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in 2015.
The Dignity Village team propose start with a supply of 300 housing units capable of housing up to 1,500 asylum seekers.
The Dignity Village team will acquire the housing units from Better Shelter and ship them from Gdansk, Poland to Matamoros. It will require approximately 20 days from approval of this plan for the first few units to arrive in Matamoros. Additional units will arrive with 40 days of approval.
The intention, subject to approval from local authorities, is to place these housing units on flat ground in the area of the “football field” located in Matamoros Jardin - between Av. Tamaulipas and the river.
The proposed placement of the Dignity Village shelters will be in the park land adjacent to the bridge plaza on the banks of the river. Final designs will be conducted after receiving preliminary approvals by an onsite team of engineers with experience building similar camps.
For more details see: Villanova Engineering Design
Registration services will be established in order to keep a list of asylum seekers desiring to reside in Dignity Village. The list will be used to prioritize assignment of housing units and establish eligibility for other Dignity Village services. Priority for housing assignments will focus first on families with young children. A full prioritization model will be published and a transparent list will be managed so that everyone understands where they are on the list at any point in time.
Registered residents of Dignity Village will be issued photo ID cards for the purpose of demonstrating eligibility for services within the community.
Standards of Conduct
All residents, prior to being assigned housing units, must sign a written pledge to adhere to the community standards for Dignity Village which will be based on policies drafted by the UNHCR in previous temporary refugee communities. Residents will sign documents that clarify that breach of these behavioral standards will result in loss of the assigned housing and expulsion from Dignity Village.
Physical security in Dignity Village will be provided through a collaboration between local and federal Mexican authorities and a private security service hired by and funded by the non-profit organizations.
Safe Drinking Water
Dignity Village will provide safe drinking water to the residents of the village. The proposed plan for safe drinking water is to operate two AquaBlocks filtration systems each capable of delivering 1500 liters of safe drinking water every hour. There is deliberate redundancy in this plan to ensure that safe water is available even if one unit becomes inoperable.
These units are available from the Planet Water Foundation (planet-water.org)
Dignity Village will install and maintain sanitation systems adequate to the needs of the residents of the village. These will include both well-maintained porta potties and also plumbed temporary toilet and shower facilities based on trailer platforms and maintained by the village team and serviced adequately to ensure a clean and safe environment.
To promote a sense of community, pride, and self-sufficiency within Dignity Village residents will be asked to provide services that would be mutually beneficial to the entire village. This would be voluntary and could include the following skills with verification of competency:
Plumbing (maintenance of AquaBlocks and mobile toilet systems)
Misioneras de Jesus
Catholic Charities RGV
Resource Center Matamoros
Lawyers for Good Government
Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV
Global Response Management
The initial financial goal of the project is to secure $1,000,000 USD in funding from sponsors and donors to cover the costs of constructing the village and operating the basic infrastructure of the village for a six-month period.
Code of Conduct
All partner organizations and all volunteers working in Dignity Village agree to abide by the following code of conduct:
We have a responsibility to protect asylum seekers and to avoid exposing them to further harm as a result of our actions. We also have a duty of care to all our volunteers. We aim to follow the UN’s humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, avoiding harm, accountability, participation and respect. In practice, that means we all need to follow this Code of Conduct.
These rules apply to all work with Asylum Seekers in Dignity Village.
We will ensure that our conduct is consistent with and reflects the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations: respect for fundamental human rights, social justice and human dignity, and respect for the equal rights of men and women.
We will assist the Dignity Village team to actively promote adherence to the principles of international refugee law, international human rights law and international humanitarian
law. We will be guided by the core values of the UN system, including professionalism, integrity and respect for diversity, and will maintain an international perspective at all times.
Our primary commitment is to ensure the protection of and assistance to asylum seekers and other persons of concern. We are committed to supporting the fullest possible participation of asylum seekers and other persons of concern – as individuals, families and communities – in decisions that affect their lives.
We will respect the dignity and worth of every individual, will promote and practice understanding, respect, compassion and tolerance, and will demonstrate discretion and maintain confidentiality as required.
We will aim to build constructive and respectful working relations with our humanitarian
partners, will continuously seek to improve our performance, and will foster a climate that
encourages learning, supports positive change, and applies the lessons learned from our experience.
We will show respect for all persons equally without distinction whatsoever of race, gender,
religion, color, national or ethnic origin, language, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic status, disability, political conviction, or any other distinguishing feature. We will strive to remove all barriers to equality.
We will respect the cultures, customs and traditions of all peoples, and will strive to avoid behaving in ways that are not acceptable in a particular cultural context. However, when the tradition or practice is considered by the relevant organ of the UN to be directly contrary to an international human rights instrument or standard, we will be guided by the applicable human rights instrument or standard.
For more details on the Dignity Village Plan, click here.