Mercedes dreams of reuniting with her daughter and grandchildren.

She fled violence in El Salvador.

Mercedes, 47 years old: “One day, two men came to the neighbourhood and told the youths they had to join the gang, and my children refused. The gangs told us that we had to feed them, otherwise they would kill us. Then a group called ‘Extermination’ started to operate in the area. They killed everyone they thought was with the gangs. They killed our neighbour, although he was not in the gangs. They threatened to kill us, accusing us of supporting and feeding the gangs, so we had to flee. And now we are refugees in Mexico.”

Central american refugees in a shelter in Mexico.

Single mother Mercedes supports her son’s dream of becoming a nurse in Mexico. © UNHCR/E. PINDADO

Central american refugees in a shelter in Mexico.

“I’m not scared of working, I have worked all my life, and I am good at buying and selling things.” Mercedes dreams of starting her own business in Mexico. © UNHCR/E. PINDADO

Central american refugees in a shelter in Mexico.

Mercedes, 47, fled the gang violence in El Salvador with her two sons after their lives were threatened. They now live in a refugee shelter in Mexico. Her daughter stayed behind with her own family. © UNHCR/E. PINDADO

“I am a single mom. I have always worked really hard to support my children. They are good children – they go to church, they study and they have always helped me with my work. My youngest son (17) wants to study to become a nurse. He likes helping people. Javier is now working as a construction worker. He wants to make money so we can get our own house. I am not afraid of working. I have worked all my life, and I am good at buying and selling things. I had a business in my house, selling clothes. I would love to start my own business in Mexico.

My dream is to be reunited with my daughter who is still in El Salvador, with her husband and my granddaughters. I fear that they are not safe there. I want them to come to Mexico. When I think of them I start crying and get really sad, but I need to stay strong for my son Javier.”

Over the past two years, UNHCR and the dedicated staff who run shelters have noticed a changing profile in the type of asylum-seeker arriving and in need of help. Once it was primarily young, single men and women, but increasingly we see whole families or single mothers with children.

Written by Alejandra Romo

Show your solidarity with refugees like Mercedes by standing #WithRefugees today.


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Mexico has seen a dramatic increase – 70 per cent – in the number of people seeking safety on its soil since last year, as more and more people flee a surge in violence in El Salvador.

Since the truce broke down in 2014 between the Salvadoran Government and the street gangs, violence has exploded, driving the national murder rate up to 104 per 100,000 people – the highest since the country’s bloody civil war came to an end in 1992.