Honduras has created a new National Migration Institute after firing all personnel from the directorate formerly in charge of migratory affairs for allegedly facilitating human trafficking, showing unusual government resolve to root out official corruption and collaboration with organized crime.
The new institute, which President Juan Orlando Hernandez created via a presidential decree, will work as an independent body that coordinates with the National Investigation and Intelligence Unit. It will be responsible for formulating migration policies, enforcing existing legislation regarding migration, and taking measures to control immigration, according to the decree.
Personnel of the National Migration Institute will be chosen through a selection process that involves confidence testing.
The new body will replace the General Migration Directorate and will receive all of the documentation, information and budget money from the old system.
President Hernandez’s decree comes after all employees of the former directorate were relieved of their duties based on indications that much of the central leadership and customs staff colluded with human traffickers, reported El Mundo. According to sources consulted by La Prensa, a network that trafficked minors and migrants operated with support from individuals in the General Migration Directorate, who provided passports and other services for the criminals.
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The need for a complete overhaul of Honduras’ migration services acts as another example of how corrupt Honduran institutions help contribute to organized criminal activities, with the functions of the national police, judicial system and political elite also seriously compromised by corruption.
However, the fact the government is willing to undertake such reforms at least reaffirms its recently recognized increased efforts to tackle human trafficking. Nevertheless, in the US State Department 2014 Trafficking in Persons report (pdf) that commended the country’s actions, Honduras remained a Tier 2 source and transit country (the third worst category), and the need for further measures to prevent and prosecute human trafficking was highlighted.
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The decision to eliminate the current migration institution also represents a show of political will to combat institutional links to crime that has been uncommon in the country until now. An ongoing and highly politicized process to purge the police, for example, has seen little in the way of results. However, changing the name and firing the employees will not in itself be enough. Adequate screening measures will also need to be strictly enforced, and top-level corruption investigated and prosecuted.