2,500 migrants are stuck at a US-Mexico border camp ‘ripe for mass infection.’ Photos show how they’re preparing for a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Migrants queue for water at a camp in Matamoros, Mexico on March 20, 2020.

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Migrants queue for water at a camp in Matamoros, Mexico on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters
  • Thousands of migrants are stuck in limbo in a border camp in Matamoros, Mexico, after President Donald Trump’s administration postponed all immigration hearings as a result of the coronavirus.
  • Humanitarian groups fear that the camp – which has no running water or electricity – is ill-equipped for a virus outbreak.
  • “If COVID-19 does come to our camp, the environment is ripe for mass infection and severe illness,” a coordinator at a medical nonprofit said, according to Quartz.
  • Mexico, which has recorded 475 coronavirus cases, has been criticized for not taking preventative measures seriously.
  • Scroll down to see what the camp looks like and how people there are preparing for a possible outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The decision of President Donald Trump’s administration to postpone all immigration hearings due to the coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of migrants outside the US border stuck in limbo.

An encampment in the eastern Mexican city of Matamoros, which shares a border with Texas, is home to some 2,500 of them.

Conditions at the camp are dire – it has no electricity and no running water, and humanitarian organizations are growing increasingly worried of a potential coronavirus outbreak. Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located, has two confirmed coronavirus cases so far.

Scroll down to see photos of the Matamoros camp, and how people there are preparing for a possible outbreak.

Ruqayyah Moynihan contributed to this report.


Matamoros is located on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, which also shares a border with Brownsville, Texas.

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A Google map of Matamoros, Mexico.
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Google Maps

In the city is a migrant camp built on a former soccer pitch. It currently houses 2,500 people and is still operating in full swing despite fears of the coronavirus pandemic.

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A general view of the Matamoros migrant camp on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Many of the migrants here originally came from Central America and hope to enter the US. But after the Trump administration postponed all immigration hearings on March 24 due to the coronavirus, their fate is now in limbo.

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A migrant holds a baby in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

Source: CNN


With no electricity or running water, the conditions in the camp are dire. This woman in the camp is cooking beans on a self-made fire.

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A Central American woman cooks beans at the Matamoros camp on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Though there have been no reported coronavirus infections in the camp itself, Tamaulipas state — where Matamoros is located — has at least two confirmed cases, local media said.

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Central American migrants share a moment in Matamoros on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Mexico has a total of 475 confirmed cases as of Thursday.

Source: Expreso Press


This has made humanitarian groups extremely nervous of a potential coronavirus outbreak. They are now working around the clock to prepare the camp for it.

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Migrants queue for water in Matamoros on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: The Guardian


“If COVID-19 does come to our camp, the environment is ripe for mass infection and severe illness,” Andrea Leiner, director of the medical non-profit Global Response Management (GRM), told Quartz.

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A volunteer worker wears a protective mask as he serves food for migrants in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

Source: Quartz


GRM has already started taking some preventative measures to shield people from possible infection. For example, they have asked migrants to spread their tents further apart, and are handing out multivitamins every day.

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A migrant from Haiti carries a mattress close to the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: Quartz


It also put in a new policy asking those with mild coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate in their tents. Those with more serious symptoms will immediately be sent to a local hospital.

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A migrant from Haiti rests under the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: Quartz


Humanitarian groups working on site have also set up a medical hotline that inhabitants can call should they start developing symptoms.

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Migrant children watch a cartoon movie in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

Source: Quartz


They are also trying to improve ventilation in the camp, which is known to be very dusty. “We’re clearly not able to provide medical-grade oxygen at the quantity where we can ventilate people — that’s just not possible,” Leiner said.

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Migrants bathe in Rio Grande river in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

While most migrants are young, humanitarian workers still consider them a vulnerable group because of their poor living conditions and lack of healthcare on site.

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A Central American migrant washes dishes in Matamoros on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Mexico as a whole has also been criticized for its relatively relaxed stance on the coronavirus outbreak compared to other countries.

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Migrants children play while adults wait in line for food in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

Source: The Guardian


On March 15, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was still seen hugging and kissing supporters at a rally in Autla de Los Libres.

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Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador greeting supporters in Ayutla de los Libres on March 15, 2020.
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Reuters

Source: Al Jazeera


Matamoros authorities first said the crisis “wasn’t a big deal” before quickly approving humanitarian plans to start putting restrictions in place.

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A man walks on the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge, while migrants take a bath at the Rio Bravo river on March 20, 2020.
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Daniel Becerril/Reuters

Source: Quartz


And Leiner, the humanitarian group coordinator, is preparing for the worst. “Like every other system in the world, their system is going to become overwhelmed at some point, and so we want to be prepared for when that eventuality comes,” she said.

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A local pastor sings and prays with migrants in Matamoros on March 22, 2020.
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Go Nakamura/Reuters

Source: Quartz