Irregular migrants in Mexico: Ten urgent measures to save lives

March 12, 2013

Irregular migrants in Mexico: Ten urgent measures to save lives

Irregular migrants in Mexico: Ten urgent measures to save lives A briefing update 12 March 2013 Index: AMR 41/011/2013

The number of irregular migrants crossing Mexico increased in 20121 and routine abductions, sexual violence, forced recruitment into criminal gangs, people trafficking and murder of migrants continued unchecked. Impunity for these grave abuses remains the norm.

The government of Enrique Peña Nieto so far has not taken any steps to correct the abject failure of the last government to get to grips with this humanitarian crisis. Once again the fate of irregular migrants in Mexico appears to be reduced to a side issue. Yet migrants' shelters and human rights defenders have reported to Amnesty International an increasing flow of migrants and more incidents of abductions and other attacks on migrants and migrants' defenders.

In February there were new reports of abductions of migrants in Medias Aguas in Veracruz state, appearing to confirm this worsening situation. The authorities have yet to provide any information on the steps taken to investigate these incidents.

Human rights defenders who provide shelter and support for migrants have also faced more threats and intimidation. On 4 March 2013, Ruben Figueroa working at "La 72" shelter in Tenosique was threatened, highlighting the risks faced by those committed to the safety of migrants.

Migrants rights defenders that receive official protection have consistently reported how poor or ineffective these measures are. The investigations into those behind the threats never prosper and the local politicians routinely fail to support the work of shelters, and in some case foster hostility.

Nothing has changed since the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) produced its last report on kidnapping of migrants in 2011 which showed that more than 11,000 migrants were kidnapped over the previous a six month period. The killing of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, in August 2010, in which local police colluded with a criminal gang, led to national and international outrage. Scores of suspects were arrested for involvement in the gang allegedly responsible, but the authorities have failed to make clear how many of these suspects are facing charges directly in relation to abuses committed against migrants. As a result, as with so many cases, abuses against migrants are invisible.

The identities of at least 12 bodies of the victims from San Fernando still have to be established as do scores of other bodies recovered in the municipality. The authorities have been keen to dismiss concern that many of these remains may belong to migrants, - Mexican or Central American - but has not facilitated reliable and independent identification procedures. The marches of mothers of disappeared Central American migrants at the end of last year demonstrated that this is a much wider problem that the government has failed to address.

In August 2010 the last government announced its Integrated Strategy to Combat Kidnapping of Migrants, but this proved to be nothing more than a public relations exercise. The same absence of coordination and accountability between federal, state and municipal government agencies - including the National Institute for Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM ), Federal Police, Federal Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), Armed Forces, state police and prosecutors as well as municipal police - has prevented effective measures to stop abuses and bring those responsible to justice, including public officials colluding with criminal gangs.

The recent statement by the Under Secretary for Population, Migration and Religious issues of the Interior Minster that recent complaints of kidnapping of migrants are simply passed to the PGR is symptomatic of the federal government's apparent inability to lead a coordinated and effective response to this crisis.

The complete failure of government agencies to gather and publish data such as reports of abuses against migrants, investigations undertaken, perpetrators prosecuted, officials sanctioned, migrants reported missing, is a clear indication of the lack of priority and focus on the abuses suffered by migrants in transit.