Press Release

The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Wraps Up its Visit to Mexico

August 2, 2011

Mexico, City, Mexico – The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission or IACHR) conducted a visit to Mexico from July 25 to August 2, 2011. The purpose of the visit was to observe the human rights situation of migrants in Mexico.

The IACHR delegation, headed by Commissioner Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, and the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Santiago Canton, visited Mexico City; Oaxaca and Ixtepec in the state of Oaxaca; Tapachula and Ciudad Hidalgo in the state of Chiapas; Tierra Blanca and Veracruz in the state of Veracruz; and Reynosa and San Fernando in the state of Tamaulipas. During the visit, the Rapporteurship held meetings with federal, state and municipal officials, with civil society organizations and with international agencies.

During its visit to Mexico, the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants received information on the significant progress made in the area of immigration, especially the new Immigrant Law, approved in 2011. All these changes, introduced starting in 2008, mark the start of an immigration reform process that is without precedent in Mexico’s recent history. This change has been furthered through additional changes in the laws and regulations, introduced after consulting with Mexico’s civil society and implemented and disseminated nationwide. This change will represent an immigration paradigm shift that will have a significant impact in Mexico and the world.

The Commission applauds the important work done by those who defend the rights of migrants. Risking their lives, these human rights defenders carry on their important mission. The IACHR is reminded of how important it is that the State guarantees the safety of these human rights defenders.

Notwithstanding the progress accomplished, the Rapporteurship is deeply concerned over the serious perils that migrants, both foreign and Mexican nationals, face in their travels through Mexico. The Rapporteurship received information to the effect that migrants have to cope with serious security problems as they travel through Mexican territory, and fall victim to murder, disappearance, abduction and rape. Foreign immigrants are victims of discrimination.

The Rapporteurship received testimony from migrants who were abducted and managed to escape, and from persons who are searching for family members who attempted to emigrate but have not been heard from for months and even years. In San Fernando, in the state of Tamaulipas, the delegation visited the bus terminals where a number of abductions took place in March 2011. The delegation was visited by hundreds of persons who traveled from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the Caravana Paso a Paso hacia la Paz, which was composed of 500 people, among them 150 relatives of migrants who had either disappeared or been abducted. The testimony received bespoke the tragedy that the migrants experienced as they passed through Mexico.

The IACHR also took testimony from migrants who witnessed the slaughters of dozens of persons during their captivity, and from migrants who were abducted together with several hundred other people. The Rapporteurship heard testimony from mothers who are searching for their missing children and from wives, brothers and sisters who are looking for their loved ones. Testimony was taken about rapes and multiple rapes during the period the migrants were held in captivity. The Rapporteurship heard corroborating testimony about the existence of kidnappings for extortion, for sexual exploitation and for human trafficking. In general, the persons who provided this testimony to the Commission said that they had not reported these cases to the authorities for fear of reprisals on the part of organized crime or agents of the state.

If it is properly regulated and implemented, passage of the new Immigration Law can be a first step toward resolving some of these problems; however, it will also create new challenges that will only be resolved through international coordination with other States, especially those that are geographically proximate to Mexico.

The IACHR’s Rapporteurship is grateful for the invitation that Mexico extended for this visit, and expresses its deep appreciation to the federal authorities and the authorities of the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz and Tamaulipas for the cooperation they provided. The Rapporteurship would like to especially acknowledge the work being done by organizations that defend migrants’ human rights in Mexico and in other countries of the region.

While the IACHR will prepare a full report on this visit and publish it in due course, the Rapporteurship’s Preliminary Observations are being presented today in an annex to this press release.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 82/11