- Mexico’s Southern Border Program has prioritized migration enforcement and has increased human rights violations against migrants.
- Despite the work of new specialized prosecutors and the National Human Rights Commission, migrants who are victims of crimes and human rights violations do not have effective access to justice.
- The report offers concrete and feasible recommendations to the governments of Mexico and the United States.
Mexico, D.F.–In the report An Uncertain Path: Justice for Crimes and Human Rights Violations against Migrants and Refugees in Mexico released today, participating organizations explain how the Southern Border Program has significantly increased migration enforcement operations, apprehensions, and deportations of migrants. This stepped-up enforcement has led to an increase in human rights violations against migrants. These migration operations are increasingly conducted in conjunction with Mexican security forces, and migrant shelters have documented kidnappings, extortions, robberies, and abuses throughout the country.
Given that Mexico’s National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) has been the primary agency responsible for carrying out the Southern Border Program, it is clear that, far from a development program, the strategy is focused on migration enforcement actions. The report finds that in 2014, the year the Southern Border Program was announced, the INM spent the largest budget in its history, and that this increase goes hand in hand with the increase in migrant apprehensions.
For its part, the United States government has provided political and financial support to the Mexican government for migration enforcement, especially following the 2014 “surge” of migrants, mostly unaccompanied children and families from Central America that arrived at the U.S. southwest border. In July 2014, it was revealed that the State Department was working with the Mexican government on enforcement at its southern border, providing some US$86 million in funds already included in the Merida Initiative, a multi-year U.S. security aid package to Mexico. Furthermore, Congress allocated up to US$79 million in additional funds in fiscal year 2015 for this same purpose.
The report demonstrates how the Mexican government's efforts to strengthen protections for migrants have fallen far short of their actual needs. There is no evidence that migrants who are victims of crimes and human rights violations have effective access to justice, despite the creation of new specialized prosecutors for attention to migrants. There is a lack of conclusive data regarding justice for migrants in Mexico. The most detailed data are from the specialized prosecutor’s office in Oaxaca, which reports that of the 383 complaints received over four years, only 96 resulted in a preliminary investigation being opened and only four resulted in sentences for the perpetrators.
Although the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) and state-level human rights commissions are more approachable for demanding justice, the report finds that their "procedures and investigative capacities are not particularly expeditious or effective." The report reveals that of the 1,617 complaints of human rights violations against migrants that the CNDH received from December 1, 2012 to June 15, 2015, only four resulted in a formal recommendation issued to the institution implicated in the complaint.
The report also discusses why there are so many potential refugees in Mexico and so few recognized refugees. It stresses that the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados, COMAR), only has 15 protection officers in the entire country to ensure access to international protection for the more than 100,000 migrants that are detained over the period of a year. Moreover, COMAR’s budget did not increase in real terms from 2014 to 2015.
Given this context, An Uncertain Path: Justice for Crimes and Human Rights Violations against Migrants and Refugees in Mexico, provides concrete recommendations to the relevant governmental agencies within the Mexican government, including the INM, the Ministry of the Interior, and the federal Attorney General’s office, as well as to the United States government.
The report is the result of a close collaboration between the Washington Office on Latin América (WOLA), Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, and seven shelters and organizations that work to defend migrant rights in five areas of Mexico: Casa del Migrante "Frontera con Justicia,” AC in Saltillo, Coahuila; the “Red Sonora” (a network composed of three organizations in Sonora: Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Centro de Recursos para Migrantes in Agua Prieta y Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado, or CCAMYN, in Altar); Albergue de Migrantes "Hermanos en el Camino" in Ixtepec, Oaxaca; La 72, Hogar — Refugio para Personas Migrantes in Tenosique, Tabasco; and Un Mundo, Una Nación in Apizaco, Tlaxcala.
WOLA Communications Director
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