WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
27 Jul 2017 | Publication

Access to Justice for Migrants in Mexico: A Right that Exists Only on the Books

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Summary of Findings and Conclusions 

This report was produced by: Ximena Suárez, WOLA Associate for Mexico; Andrés Diaz, Researcher on Fundar’s Human Rights and Anti-Impunity Program; José Knippen, Migration Project Coordinator at Fundar; and Maureen Meyer, WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights.

The full report (in Spanish) can be found here.

  • Mexican authorities do not show the political will to investigate crimes against migrants and often find justifications to prolong cases without sanctioning those responsible.
  • Attacks continue against activists and human rights organizations accompanying migrants in Mexico

The report, “Access to Justice for Migrants in Mexico: A Right That Exists Only on the Books”, exposes the impunity that persists in crimes against migrants in transit through Mexico. According to official statistics from 2014 to 2016, out of the 5,824 investigations into crimes against migrants in Sonora, Coahuila, Chiapas, Tabasco and at a federal level, there is only evidence of 49 sentences, amounting to a 99 percent rate of impunity.

Although Mexico has created federal and state-level special prosecutors for migrants, serious obstacles persist to report and investigate crimes. Denouncing crimes is difficult because these authorities are often not present in migrant detention centers or other places where crimes are committed and migrants do not trust authorities. The report further identifies the following obstacles to investigate crimes against migrants Mexico: a lack of coordination between the federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) and the corresponding local offices, unjustifiable delays in the investigations, a lack of special prosecutors who are qualified for the job, and insufficient material and human resources.

Mexican authorities justify the lack of results from investigations into crimes against migrants by claiming that these cannot move forward if the victims do not remain in the area where the investigations are taking place. However, this report demonstrates that Mexican authorities have two tools at their disposal that they do not use to investigate these cases: data collection and presenting evidence before trial so that the investigation can continue even without the victims or witnesses being present and regularizing their migration status.

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The report also finds that the Foreign Support Mechanism (Mecanismo de Apoyo Exterior, MAE), which allows individuals to report crimes committed against migrants in Mexico from abroad, operates thanks to the efforts of family groups and human rights organizations as well as concrete actions from some public officials. However, the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, SRE), and the PGR have not shown the will to permit the MAE to work efficiently and there is a need for more coordination with the governments of Central America and the United States.

Lastly, migrants’ rights defenders continue to be harassed and threatened by government officials and organized criminal groups. These cases also remain in impunity.

To address this situation, the report recommends measures to guarantee that migrants are able to denounce crimes against them so that they can obtain justice for any type of crime, increasing government outreach to migrants and the organizations that defend them, and reforming the guidelines of the MAE. Moreover, the report recommends greater coordination and cooperation between specialized units and prosecutor’s offices at all levels of the government, more political will to attend to and follow through with investigations, including allocating more resources for investigations, creating a plan for prosecuting crimes against migrants, and guaranteeing the rights of victims and their family members.

The participating shelters and organizations urge Mexican authorities to investigate and sanction crimes committed against migrants and to stop blocking justice. Through investigations and bringing justice, the Mexican government can leave behind the idea that violence and impunity are the price that migrants have to pay for crossing through Mexico.

The following nine organizations located throughout Mexico and in the United States produced this report: Casa del Migrante de Saltillo, Albergue de Migrantes Hermanos en el Camino, La 72 Hogar-Refugio para Personas Migrantes, la Red Migrante Sonora (Kino Border Initiative, Centro de Recursos para Migrantes, Centro de Atención al Migrante Exodus, Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado, and Centro Comunitario de Ayuda a Migrantes), La Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho, Fundar Centro de Análisis en Investigación and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

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