Will Officials Finally Admit Scale of Mexico’s Forced Displacement Crisis?

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New figures have revealed the full extent of how violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of Mexicans in the last decade, and how this national crisis has been ignored by successive administrations.

About 380,000 people were forcefully displaced in Mexico between 2009 and 2018 as a result of violence and organized crime, according to the head of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Alexandra Bilak, El Universal reported.

Yet Bilak, who met with Mexican authorities earlier this week, believes the real amount may be significantly higher.

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Indeed, a recent report from the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos – CMDPDH) put the figure of displaced people at over 1.1 million, although its methodology counted anybody who moved from home because of violence.

After years of inaction, the Mexican government announced on July 23 that it is working on a new law to tackle forced internal displacement, according to an EFE report.

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The IDMC’s data is but one example of the numerous investigations and reports that have documented the magnitude of Mexico’s internal displacement crisis, as well as its relation to violence and organized crime. Though this information has long been available to Mexican authorities, the country’s government has thus far failed to pass any legislation to try and deal with the problem.

So far, the state’s failure to recognize the issue has left the country with no legal basis to devise a counterstrategy. Now, government legislation plans to reform its refugee support agency, the Mexican Refugee Commission (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados – Comar), which currently only deals with foreign nationals, so that it is equipped to deal with internal cases of forced displacement.

However, the plan to expand Comar’s mandate may well stretch thin an organization already coping with vast numbers of people displaced from abroad. And aside from that one proposal, there is no clear information on what elements of the crisis the new legislation will address.

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In 2017, forced internal displacement affected over 20,000 people in at least nine states, stretching from the northern border regions plagued by clashes between cartels to the south of the country where indigenous communities suffer disproportionately from violence, according to the CMDPDH.

Data from the CMDPDH makes it clear that a wide range of violent causes can create displacement, including clashes between armed groups and the state, inter-gang violence, assassinations of political and social leaders, and fear of future violence.

Any initiative will need to improve the government’s ability to monitor the number of displaced people within the country, as there are currently no data or instruments which can precisely measure this phenomenon.

Potentially worsening the situation, Mexico is currently facing record high homicide rates. June 2019 was the deadliest month on record with 2,560 murders, resulting in a homicide rate of 22 per 100,000 people, a six percent year-on-year rise.

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