Amnesty International Press Release
Wednesday, April 28
New Amnesty International Report Documents "The Most Dangerous Journey in the World" — Abuse of Central American Migrants Trying to Reach the United States
Tens of Thousands of Migrants are Prey to Kidnapping, Extortion, Beatings and Murder by Criminal Gangs, as Mexican Authorities Turns a Blind Eye or Participate; More than Half of Women and Girls Experience Sexual Violence
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]
(Mexico City) — Tens of thousands of migrant men, women and children making their way from Central America to the United States to seek a better life are preyed on by criminal gangs in Mexico while authorities turn a blind eye — or even play an active part — in kidnappings, extortion, beatings, rapes of girls and women, and murders, Amnesty International said in a new report released today. Urging the Mexican government to protect the migrants’ rights and punish those who abuse them, Amnesty International called the migrants’ plight a "human rights crisis."
An estimated six out of 10 migrant women and girls experience sexual violence, allegedly prompting some smugglers to demand that women receive contraceptive injections ahead of the journey, to avoid pregnancy as the result of rape, according to the report, Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico.
Researchers documented alarming levels of abuse of migrants. The report said private security guards, migration officials, police, military, human traffickers and criminal gangs all take part.
Photographs accompanying the report capture the dangers migrants face and their determination to seek a better life. The photographs show migrants being beaten by police and jumping from car to car on the top of moving trains. One photograph shows Donar Ramirez Espiral,from Honduras, in a wheelchair – his dream of reaching the United States shattered when he fell from a train and lost his lower legs.
Kidnappings of migrants, mainly for ransom, reached new heights in 2009, with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reporting that nearly 10,000 were abducted over six months and almost half of interviewed victims saying that public officials were involved in their kidnapping.
"Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses" said Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International and co-author of the report. Knox will speak at a press conference in Mexico City launching the report, joined by human rights activists and migrants (details below).
"Persistent failure by the authorities to tackle abuses carried out against migrants has made their journey through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world," said Knox. "Mexico has a responsibility to prevent, punish and remedy abuses whether these are committed by criminal gangs or public officials."
The report documents an incident that occurred on January 23, 2010, when armed police stopped a freight train carrying over 100 migrants in Chiapas State, southern Mexico.
Veronica (not her real name) said that Federal Police forced her and the other migrants to leave the train and lie face down on the ground, before stealing their belongings and threatening to kill them unless they continued their journey by foot along the railway.
After walking for hours, the group was assaulted by armed men who raped Veronica and killed at least one other migrant.
Two suspects were later detained after a local activist helped the migrants file a complaint but no action was taken against the Federal Police, despite migrants identifying two officers allegedly involved.
The report calls for immediate action to ensure migrants’ access to complaint mechanisms regardless of their status and ensure effective investigations.
The vast majority of migrants travelling through Mexico are Central Americans headed for the U.S. border in search of work.
Ruben Figueroa, a Mexican human rights defender who provides shelter and food for migrants, told Amnesty International: "They leave their homes because of the extreme poverty where they come from, the journey north is a nightmare for them but they do it for the families they have left behind."
The Mexican government has often stated its commitment to protect the rights of migrants, whatever their legal status and is a leading promoter of migrants’ rights on the international stage.
But despite some welcome measures in recent years — for example, better protection of the rights of unaccompanied children and criminalization of trafficking — these initiatives in reality often fail to prevent and punish abuses against migrants.
Amnesty International’s recommendations to address the human rights crisis include:
• Legislative reforms to ensure migrants have access to justice
• Establishment of a federal task force to coordinate and implement measures
• Compilation and publication of data on abuses against migrants and the steps taken to bring those responsible to account, including public officials.