Migrants in Temporary Housing in Northern Mexico Get Constant Medical Observation

Tijuana – Health teams led by Mexican doctors provide regular medical checking to migrants in two temporary hotel accommodations in Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the migrant population and host communities.  

"What we do is a benefit to the community: migrants have suffered, like many of us, from this pandemic. With this support, we make sure they are not out in the street," said Leticia Chavarría Villa, a doctor who coordinates a six-person medical team in Ciudad Juárez.  

Her colleagues, mainly Cuban migrants living in this border city, applied for an open call to become medical assistants, explained Chavarría Villa, a Mexican doctor with more than 30 years of professional experience in Ciudad Juárez , her hometown. 

She explained the health teams established by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) here and in Tijuana are "very important" because they also provide care for other illnesses or injuries that migrants may bring with them. 

"The medical team does not just receive migrants at the entrance. They check them twice a day. If treatment is necessary, we take care of their treatment," she said. 

Chavarría noted that "filter hotels," like the one she works in, "support migrants who don't have a space to go through quarantine when everyone should be isolated." 

After spending two weeks under observation in temporary accommodations, migrants without symptoms of COVID-19 are received in shelters. This despite the fact that many of these places have closed their doors to protect those already there. 

The "filter hotels" protocol establishes that, upon entry, a medical check is applied. Migrants answer a questionnaire to indicate whether they have diabetes, hypertension, any injury, diarrhea, gastritis, or other gastric problems, as well as possible symptoms of COVID-19. 

Once migrants enter the hotel, the medical staff check them twice daily for symptoms related to COVID-19. Health professionals measure their oxygen levels, body temperature and other indicators—for example, glucose, for diabetes--and provide psychosocial support when required. 

Nurse Mary Tisnado, who works at the temporary accommodation hotel in Tijuana since operation began there June 29, considers this facility's role as crucial. "We are the first filter. We channel cases and protect others," the Mexican nurse said.  

Then two filter hotels enjoy support from around 30 institutions in each city, including authorities, private companies, international and civil society organizations. Contact with neighbors in the communities where filter hotels are located is constant.  

The Coalition for the Defense of Migrants is a network of civil organizations based in Baja California that advises and defends migrants' human rights. For Esmeralda Siu, the organization’s coordinator, the temporary housing serves "a need that has been manifesting" in recent months in northern Mexico. These facilities help to "have a little peace of mind since complete security is impossible" during a pandemic, she explained.  

"I think they are very important and well-needed spaces given the pandemic and migrants' needs. Because of isolation and quarantine, the Baja California shelters are not open to new entries," the activist added. 

"IOM believes that diseases such as COVID-19 pose a risk to millions of people around the world regardless of their nationality," said Jeremy MacGillivray, Deputy Chief of Mission at IOM Mexico. "We maintain that the best way to mitigate the risks involved is through solidarity and inclusive approaches to people on the move and, in the case of migrants, providing them with access to services and care regardless of their migration status." 

For more information, please contact Alberto Cabezas at IOM Mexico, Email:,  Tel: +52 55 4525 8361