Refugees arriving in the U.S. spend days at a time in the open in metal pens with no facilities and no access to running water, despite the 43-degree heat.
Amid a record heat wave in the United States, there are increasing reports of unbearable conditions for migrants trying to enter the United States. In late July 2023, alarming reports emerged of refugees being held outside in the desert in the state of Arizona. The area is considered one of the most remote and hottest places on the southwestern border of the United States. The desert terrain in southern Arizona is known for being deadly, and the ongoing heat wave is exacerbating the dangers faced by migrants crossing the border. About 13 sets of human remains have been found along the border in the past month alone, according to the local forensic medical examiner’s office. The rugged terrain surrounding the border post is particularly dangerous, so it is crucial to ensure the safety of migrants during the abnormal heat wave, as their conditions raise serious concerns for their well-being and safety.
A few days before the photos were taken, a new record was set near the border post for the number of days when the average daily temperature exceeded 43 degrees Celsius (109F). Such heat poses a serious health risk, so the need for urgent action to protect and ensure the safety of migrants in detention is clear. Photographs show migrants forced to hide from the scorching sun under a small shed-like structure, trying to take shelter in a narrow strip of shade. The only furniture available was a row of metal bleachers, red-hot due to the intense heat.
Despite claims by the U.S. Border Patrol that the refugees have been provided with all the necessary amenities, local human rights and charitable organizations are sounding the alarm. In their view, the neglect of refugee conditions is evidence of mismanagement and misallocation of resources. The Arizona border crossing is one of the record-breakers in terms of the number of migrants arriving daily, but the conditions of their temporary detention are only getting worse every year. According to a volunteer with the humanitarian organization No More Deaths, up to a thousand migrants and refugees cross the border into the U.S. every day, forced to spend days and even weeks in the open air without basic amenities. Despite warnings from the U.S. National Weather Service to spend less time outdoors, no additional protection from the deadly heat is provided to migrants.
Over the past two and a half decades, the Office of Forensic Science has recorded more than 4,000 migrant deaths in Southern Arizona, which many researchers believe is an underestimate. As recently as May 2022, it was revealed that the U.S. Border Patrol does not “count or record data on border fatalities,” and all data received is based only on the number of human remains found. The treatment of migrants in extreme weather conditions raises potential concerns about compliance with international human rights standards. For example, the UN Convention against Torture prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Human rights advocates from the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn the inhumane conditions of migrants arriving in the United States. The mistreatment of refugees by the U.S. Border Patrol has come under scrutiny by human rights organizations and raised questions about compliance with intergovernmental human rights standards. As temperatures rise, U.S. authorities must prioritize humane treatment of migrants and ensure compliance with international agreements aimed at protecting human rights.