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. Until December of 2019, that had not happened and thousands of families have been living in squalor in Mexican border towns.
Dignity Village is a project to provide infrastructure and services to create safer, more sanitary refuge for asylum seekers living temporarily at the base of the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Through this project, non profit organizations (NGO partners) will provide resources and services in partnership with the Mexican Federal Authorities who are establishing services for the asylum seekers in Matamoros.
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help asylum seekers
buys a shelter for a family
funds shipping and build costs
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.
Families returned to Mexico under the US MPP program are reluctant to leave the area near 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.
Conditions for families in the resulting makeshift camp have been extremely challenging, dangerous and unsanitary. The area lacks adequate housing, sanitation, and fresh-water.
Mexican Federal authorities are now working to improve conditions and have begun construction of facilities in the adjacent park area along the banks of the river.
Dignity Village will work with Mexican government agencies to provide improvements, extensions, and upgrades to the facilities. By constructing temporary, portable structures capable of withstanding the winter weather and providing adequate shelter and sanitation for the families, the NGO partners will augment the work of federal and municipal authorities in Mexico.
The project is sponsored by a consortium of NGO aid agencies lead by Catholic Charities and Team Brownsville. A full list of participating NGO partners is available in Appendix I.
The Dignity Village project will provide infrastructure and services within the transit camp operated by Mexican authorities.
The Dignity Village project will be managed by a Leadership Committee organized under a collaboration agreement between the NGO partners.
The Leadership Committee 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 is committed to providing for improvements to the safety and human dignity of asylum seekers during their temporary stay in Matamoros.
Dignity Village will provide infrastructure to residents of the village.
Safe Drinking Water
Dignity Village NGO 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 the Dignity Village Leadership Committee that establish a shared code of conduct respected by all partners.
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.
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
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)
Federal authorities are installing sanitation systems for the needs of the residents of the village. These include both porta potties and also plumbed temporary toilet and shower facilities.
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)
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.