Mexico’s crackdown against Central American migrants has increased human rights violations and crimes against the migrants, according to a new report, suggesting it is the vulnerable rather than the human smugglers that are suffering as a result of the new security measures.
The report A Trail of Impunity, compiled by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Mexican non-governmental organizations Fundar: Centro de Análisis e Investigación and Casa del Migrante, traces the impact of Mexico’s Southern Border Program, which was launched in 2014 to stem the flow of Central American migrants seeking to pass through Mexico to enter the United States. (See video below)
According to the findings, the program’s security measures have done little to deter migrants fleeing violence and organized crime in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but has forced migrants and people smugglers to take new, more dangerous routes and modes of transportation.
While migrants continue to flee the Northern Triangle, a growing number do not make it through Mexico. Increased patrols along migration routes, mobile and stationary checkpoints and raids on remote spots have led to a massive increase in detentions, with 425,058 migrants detained between 2014 and July 2016, the report states.
However, there has been little attempt to screen migrants who have a genuine asylum claim, with only 6,933 asylum applications resolved over the period and just 2,982 people granted asylum, according to the report.
Mexico’s border crackdown was supposed to be accompanied by efforts to tackle crimes against migrants, including those committed by organized crime networks that target them for crimes such as kidnapping and extortion. However, according to the report, there has been little progress in this area.
Mexico has launched a Unit for the Investigation of Crimes for Migrants within the Attorney General’s Office, alongside a Mechanism for Mexican Foreign Support in the Search and Investigation, which aims to help provide access to the Mexican justice system for family members of disappeared or kidnapped migrants. But the investigation unit lacks staff and resources to investigate the 129 cases it has so far received, according to the report.
InSight Crime Analysis
Much of the rhetoric around efforts to reduce the influx of migrants passing through Mexico from Central America has focused on the people smuggling rings that profit from those desperate to seek a new life north of the border. However, the findings of the Trail of Impunity report suggest the principal aim of the operation has not been to dismantle organized crime networks but to detain migrants.
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In addition, the report shows that little has been done to tackle the targeting of migrants by criminal groups. In recent years, organized crime networks have found migrants a lucrative source of income by extorting them, holding them hostage until their families send money, using them as drug mules and even forcibly recruiting them. This onslaught against migrants has led to some of the worst atrocities seen in Mexico in recent years.
Investigating and prosecuting these crimes, often perpetrated by some of Mexico’s most formidable criminal groups, is no easy task and will require far more than an underfunded task force.