WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
14 Dec 2010 | News

New WOLA and Center Prodh report shows pattern of abuse against migrants in transit

The August 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas, Mexico was not an isolated event but rather an alarming example of the daily abuses suffered by migrants in transit in the country, concludes a report published today by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh).

The report, “A Dangerous Journey Through Mexico: Human Rights Violations Against Migrants in Transit,” documents how migrants, primarily Central Americans, are often beaten, extorted, sexually abused, and/or kidnapped by criminal groups while they travel through Mexico on their way to the United States. It discusses the failure of the Mexican government to protect migrants in transit and the direct participation or acquiescence of Mexican authorities in several cases of abuse.  Drawing from work of migrants’ rights organizations, the report includes testimonies of three migrants who were kidnapped by criminal groups in Mexico.

The plight of migrants in transit in Mexico has been overlooked by the Mexican government for far too long,” says Maureen Meyer, WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America and primary author of the report. “It should not have taken the massacre of 72 migrants to prompt the Mexican government to start paying more attention to the issue.”

Migrant shelters, migrants’ rights organizations and human rights organizations have documented in recent years the rise in the kidnapping of migrants in transit in Mexico and the increased participation of organized criminal groups in this illicit activity.  In a 2009 report covering the six month period from September 2008 to February 2009, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) stated that 9,758 migrants were victims of kidnapping in Mexico and that organized criminal gangs were responsible for 9,194 of these kidnappings.

The testimonies highlighted in the report illustrate a disturbing pattern of abuses. As told by Nancy, a Salvadoran migrant, “Two of the women with me were released because they were able to pay the ransom so they turned themselves in to the migration agents in Reynosa. They told the agents everything that had happened and then the agents themselves sold the women back to the Zetas. They came to the house and then they were killed and their bodies were placed as an offering on the altar of the Santa Muerte (Saint Death).” (Testimony gathered in 2009 by the organizations Frontera con Justicia and Humanidad Sin Fronteras)

The failure to punish authorities and others involved in kidnappings and attacks against migrants has created a climate that perpetuates more abuses,” states Luis Arriaga, the Director of the Center Prodh. “The Mexican government’s own reporting states that only two people have been sentenced for a crime against migrants in the past two years; this number pales in comparison to the magnitude of the abuses taking place.”

As abuses against migrants have increased, so too have attacks against migrant shelters by individuals believed to be linked to migrant trafficking or kidnapping rings operating in the areas near the shelters who often hang around outside the shelters looking for their next victims. On December 7, 2010, following a series of others attacks this year, the Belén Migrants shelter (Belén, Posada del Migrante) in Saltillo, Coahuila, was broken into and a computer containing important information about the work of the shelter was stolen. “The government has failed to implement protection measures for individuals and organizations working to provide humanitarian assistance and defend the rights of migrants. This only puts them at greater risk for more attacks,” affirms Arriaga.

The Mexican government is currently in talks with Felipe González, the Special Rapporteur for the rights of migrant workers of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to facilitate the visit that the rapporteur requested Mexico in order to better understand the situation in the country.

While migrants make the conscious decision to migrate to other countries without the proper documents, “no human being should be subject to the abuses that have occurred against migrants in Mexico and elsewhere, regardless of their legal status,” states Meyer.   

To read the report in English, click here.

For more information please contact: 

Maureen Meyer
Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America, WOLA
[email protected]

Quetzalcoatl Fontanot
Communications area at Center Prodh
[email protected]
(5255) 5546-8217, ext. 110; 5546-6559 (direct);
Cell phone: (52 1 55) 4499-4536