San Diego-Tijuana Border on World Refugee Day!

World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, is a day designated by the United Nations to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of refugees around the world. It is a day of observance to build empathy and understanding for their plight, show support, and recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. Today, refugees continue to face colossal risks, including physical danger, socio economic instability, and emotional trauma. Everyone has the right to safety, so it is important to learn about the causes, consequences, and effective solutions to refugee crises. Supporting refugees by ensuring protection of funding for international humanitarian and development aid expresses our compassion and solidarity with them and with the places that welcome them. 

The Refugee Crisis

2021 was distinguished by the arrival of tens of thousands of Haitians, and in 2022, Mexico documented a significant increase in the number of asylum requests from Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and other Central Americans. In 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. According to the UNHCR Annual Statistical Report, by the end of the year, there were over 95,000 recognized refugees and over 210,000 asylum-seekers in Mexico.

Under U.S. law, a refugee is a person who is forced to flee their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of their nationality, race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Refugees do not become refugees by choice. They migrate for the sake of survival due to civil unrest, armed conflict, or other violence motivated by one of the five factors listed above. Central Americans and people of other nationalities flee to the U.S. border each day in search of safety. A large percentage consists of children and families, and that number continues to increase. Most asylum seekers that arrive in Mexico are fleeing extortion, death threats, and forced recruitment by gangs or drug cartels in Central America – or political persecution and human rights violations in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.  

Refugees living in Mexico have become easy targets for extortion and other forms of violence. Relatives may be forced to pay ransoms when their loved ones are kidnapped, and human rights organizations and reporters have documented countless cases of kidnapping, sexual assault, and other violent crimes committed against refugees. Most incidents remain unreported due to fear and lack of responsiveness if not hostility from Mexican law enforcement. 

Today, migrant shelters in the Calibaja region are overwhelmed by the thousands of refugees seeking a place to live. Many refugees are turned away and have no other option than to collect their small remittances and savings to rent hotel rooms or apartments that are usually in poor conditions and located in unsafe areas. Those who are turned away from shelters and cannot afford to rent a place, unfortunately, wind up on the streets.

The active war in Ukraine is showing us once again the horror that people face when they are forced out of their homes by conflict or persecution. Some of the challenges refugees face include limited access to basic needs such as food, shelter, healthcare, and proper education. This allows for a discussion on the need for global cooperation and support to address the issue of displacement and to find sustainable solutions for refugees across the world.

What is the World Refugee Day celebration?

World Refugee Day sheds light on the rights, needs, and aspirations of refugees as they seek protection and haven in other countries. The significance of this international day lies in its ability to bring attention to the global refugee crisis and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to take action to show solidarity and advocate for the rights and well-being of millions of refugees worldwide.

Too often we ignore the needs of refugees and other migrants seeking a place of safety. It is important to listen to their stories and empathize with them. Through collaborative efforts, we can create a shared understanding of compassion. For World Refugee Day, ICF partners with This is About Humanity and Fundación Tijuana Sin Hambre to replace tents at migrant shelters, giving families a new clean home. On a day filled with music and dancing, those living at the shelters receive fresh meals, toys, and beauty supplies. 

ICF's Past Efforts on World Refugee Day

During the month of June in 2018, ICF honored World Refugee Day by launching a $30,000 matching campaign in partnership with the Latina Giving Circle to support the migrants and asylum seekers in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. With a successful campaign, the following organizations received a grant:

  • Casa Cornelia: A San Diego based pro-bono law firm that operates in the public interest to serve the immigrant and indigenous communities. Focusing on victims who have suffered through human and civil rights violations, Casa Cornelia serves thousands of asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and victims of crime. Casa Cornelia’s mission involves educating the public on immigration law and policy and the community impacts thereof.
  • The San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP): An organization that advocates for and works toward immigrant protection and support via a 24-hour hotline and emergency response network. SDOP documents immigration enforcement activities and connects victims to resources and support networks to combat inhumane deportation.

Since ICF’s fundraising goal was surpassed, an additional $10,000 were granted to Asylum Access Mexico (AAMX), which is currently the largest refugee legal aid organization in Mexico. Through the organization’s legal empowerment, policy change and global systems change programs, AAMX advocates for a world where refugees everywhere can live safely, move freely, work, feed their families, send children to school, and contribute to their communities. It currently operates in seven different locations in the country: Mexico City, Monterrey (Nuevo León), Palenque (Chiapas), Tijuana (Baja California), Tenosique (Tabasco), Villahermosa (Tabasco).

How Can You Support Refugees?

There are several ways to contribute to World Refugee Day initiatives and support refugee communities!

  • Volunteer: Show support by volunteering at local organizations that support refugees. Fundación Tijuana Sin Hambre holds a volunteer program to cook and distribute over 3,000 meals a day to refugees and migrants living in shelters and orphanages throughout Tijuana, Baja California. Please feel free to email the organization’s administrator Emelyn Aceves ( for more information.
  • Advocate for refugee rights: It is essential to advocate for policies and legislation that protect the rights of refugees. Individuals can write to their representatives or participate in protests to raise these concerns and demand change.
  • Learn and educate others: Learning about the challenges faced by refugees can help individuals empathize and understand their struggles better. Therefore, individuals can educate themselves on the plight of refugees by reading books, attending events and talks, and sharing their knowledge with others.
  • Donate: Contribute to organizations that offer essential services or promote refugee integration. Since 2018, the ICF Border Fund has granted over $5.4 million to 25+ grassroots organizations responding to the basic and long-term needs of vulnerable migrants, refugees, and deportees in Tijuana, providing shelter, food, medicine, psychological support, and legal services. We are also working with these partners to strengthen their institutional capacity and identify long-term solutions.

Join Us in Celebrating World Refugee Day

The number of people forced to flee conflict, persecution, human rights violations, and other forms of violence has now surpassed 100 million. World Refugee Day is an occasion that offers us a chance to raise awareness of and empathy for all that’s endured by refugees every day, as well as celebrate them all over the world. 

Asylum trends have flagged Mexico as a nation of both transit and destination. While the Mexican government continues to accept migrants into their country, refugees still run the risk of experiencing extortion and violence in the communities they are living in. Embracing refugees in the communities where they have found safety after escaping conflict and persecution is one way to support them in rebuilding their lives and empower them to contribute to the countries hosting them. It’s a way to prepare them to return home and restructure their countries, when circumstances allow them to do so safely and willingly, or to prosper if they are resettled to another country.

In Mexico, shelters and human rights organizations play a vital role in the humanitarian response and in the delivery of protection services to people who have been forced to flee. Donate to the ICF Border Fund today, so we can continue funding our partners in the CaliBaja border region that are providing shelter, food, medical support, access to information, legal services, and psychosocial assistance to refugees and deportees.  

On World Refugee Day, you can make an impact on the lives and experiences of refugees all over the world, so get involved, spread the word on social media and honor these resilient people living through the most challenging conditions.

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