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Governments must act to protect migrants fleeing through the same routes and exposed to the same abuses as refugees, said Amnesty International on International Migrants Day.

Migrants in South-East Asia have been particularly vulnerable this year. In May 2015, thousands of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh were subjected to horrific abuses at the hands of boat crews in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Abuses included killings, beatings and being kept in inhuman and degrading conditions.

Following the crackdown on trafficking and smuggling by the Thai authorities, crews abandoned their boats, leaving migrants and refugees stranded at sea, before they were eventually granted temporary shelter in Indonesia and Malaysia.

While the world’s attention was focused on the global refugee crisis in 2015, migrants remained largely invisible,” said Champa Patel, South-East Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“Migrants are often forced to leave their homes due to extreme poverty and hardship that have rendered hopes for a dignified life impossible.”

“Just like refugees, they are vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers, detention, and death on dangerous and irregular routes.”

South-East Asia

Governments in the region continue to prioritize law enforcement measures, even as migrants and refugees continue to attempt the deadly sea journey across the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which do not address the safety of those attempting passage.

Amnesty International is calling on South-East Asian governments to put concrete measures in place to ensure the safety and protection of migrants in transit.

Central America and Mexico

Amnesty International is also calling on the Mexican government to protect migrants from across Central America en route to the USA – one of the most dangerous routes in the world.

The majority of migrants, many of whom are unaccompanied children, are trying to reach the USA from Central America, fleeing extreme levels of violence and poverty. Migrants are forced to undertake harrowing journeys where they are exposed to a range of abuses including abductions, disappearances, sexual violence and murder.

The creation of the Forensic Commission by the Mexican government in 2013 is a step towards the right direction, but it is not enough.  Investigations by the state into the migrant massacres that occurred between 2010 and 2012 in the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León in north-eastern Mexico are still woefully slow and those responsible for ongoing abductions, killings and disappearances are rarely prosecuted.