Mexico’s Mabe Allies with Refugees against Covid

By IPS News

A machine operator at the Mabe factory in Coahuila, Mexico. Photo: Gabo Morales/Acnur

HAVANA TIMES – The Mexican appliance company Mabe has become an important employer of Central American refugees in the country. Part of its production is directed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, reported the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR).

After the arrival of the pandemic this year, Mabe began the construction of “aeroboxes”, an adaptation of plastic refrigerator drawers. They are used to protect medical personnel who treat patients with coronavirus. The company has distributed more than 30,000 pieces within Mexico and other countries in the region.

Protection equipment for medical personanel called “aeroboxes”

The company also modified its traditional production of washing machines, donating this equipment to clinics or shelters serving Covid patients. It has distributed them in more than 500 centers in Mexico and Central America.

Yet the company also added 102 people to its workforce who have come to Mexico from neighboring Central American countries as refugees.

“They are personnel highly committed to the organization, they are very hungry to get ahead and to take advantage of the opportunity that is being given to them,” observed Pablo Moreno, director of corporate affairs at Mabe.

“We are proud to know that there are also refugees on the front line against the coronavirus. They are contributing to this battle and helping the country,” added the executive.

The case of a Honduran refugee

UNHCR presented the case of Jose Manuel, a 34-year-old Honduran, who fled to Mexico with his wife and two children in 2016. They left due to the serious security risks his family faced, and he was one of the first refugees to be hired by Mabe.

Jose Manuel lived for 13 years in the United States, and every three or four (years) he returned to Honduras. When he returned to permanently reestablish himself in his country, the extortions from criminal groups began.

“I was extorted for almost a year,” he told UNHCR, “and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I made the decision to leave Honduras, for fear that they would do something to my family. There is a limit to everything, I tried to avoid lives being lost,” he said.

One of the adapted washing machines.

He was detained for more than a month at an immigration station in Chiapas, which borders Guatemala. Then, in a shelter with the assistance of Acnur, he was able to rent a house. Almost a year later he and his family were officially recognized as refugees. They were relocated in the city of Saltillo, in the northern state of Coahuila.

It was there that Jose Manuel was recruited for the production line of the laundry centers that Mabe donates to clinics or shelters in remote places serving covid patients – or to shelters for migrants and refugees.

“We built the washing machines; the aeroboxes are made by the plastic group next to us, and we know that Mabe makes them to donate. I am very proud,” said Jose Manuel.

Mabe, an example of hiring refugees

Created in 1946, the Mabe group boasts operations in 70 countries, with a total of 21,000 employees and revenues of $US 4 billion annually.

Mabe “has become a benchmark for promoting the recruitment of refugees by other companies,” observed Florian Höpfner, a UNHCR solutions officer. He noted, “the local integration of refugees is essential for their protection. Moreover, it allows them to generate sufficient resources to be able to live a decent life. “

Over the last decade, violence and persecution forced the displacement of some 900,000 people from Central America. Half of them having sought asylum or refuge in other countries. These include some 100,000 who maintain themselves under these conditions within the borders of Mexico.

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