Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report: “Human Rights of Migrants and Other Persons in the Context of Human Mobility in Mexico”

August 18, 2014

Mexico City - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today published a report titled “Human Rights of Migrants and Other Persons in the Context of Human Mobility in Mexico,” which addresses the situation of migrant persons and others in the context of the movement of people in Mexico, as well as the situation of those who defend migrants’ human rights. This situation includes homicides, kidnappings, disappearances, acts of sexual violence, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, discrimination, and the detention of migrants without due process guarantees and judicial protection. The extreme vulnerability to which migrants and other persons fall victim in the context of human mobility in Mexico is one of the worst human tragedies in the region today.

The report underscores the main challenges and advances in terms of the human rights of migrant persons and other persons in the context of human mobility. It is based on information received by the Inter-American Commission between 2008 and 2013, through a number of public hearings and a 2011 working visit to Mexico by the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants. The report was prepared with input and information from migrant persons, State authorities, and national and international civil society organizations that work in Mexico with migrant persons and on issues involving their rights.

The Commission would like to extend special thanks to the State of Mexico for all the efforts it made, both at the federal and state level, so that this visit could be carried out, as well as for the information that various Mexican authorities provided before, during, and after the visit. The Commission also expresses its appreciation to civil society for the information it provided for the preparation of this report. The work done by private individuals and civil society organizations in Mexico is vital to safeguarding the rights of thousands of migrants, including their rights to life and humane treatment, and the Commission would like to give them special recognition for what they do.

The Commission recognizes that the Mexican State has made important legislative advances in the area of human rights. Specifically, the constitutional human rights reform of 2011, which gave constitutional status to international human rights treaties ratified by Mexico, marked an unprecedented paradigm shift for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. The IACHR also points to the 2008 decree decriminalizing undocumented persons’ entry into Mexican territory, as well as the General Population Act of 2010, under which human rights complaints or claims seeking justice must be addressed no matter what the immigration status of the person filing them. In addition, the Commission believes that legislative reforms on immigration, the protection of refugees, and the protection of victims and survivors of human trafficking are of fundamental importance. Specifically, along these lines, the Commission recognizes the importance of the 2011 Law on Refugees and Additional Protection and the 2011 Immigration Act, as well as the National Registry of Missing or Disappeared Persons Act and the 2012 General Law to Prevent, Punish, and Eradicate Crimes Associated with Human Trafficking and for Protection and Assistance to the Victims of These Crimes.

The IACHR also appreciates the statements made by representatives of Mexico on the need to break the existing dichotomy between the human rights protection that Mexico seeks for Mexican migrants abroad and the protection that Mexican authorities provide to migrants from other countries who are either living in or are in transit through Mexico. However, the Mexican State’s response has been patently inadequate in terms of preventing, protecting, prosecuting, punishing, and redressing crimes and human rights violations committed against migrant persons and other persons in the context of human mobility in Mexico.

Mexico reflects the multidimensional nature of international migration in the Americas. As a country of origin, transit, and destination for migrants, Mexico is a necessary gateway for mixed migration flows which include, in addition to migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. The socioeconomic, political, environmental, and security situations in the region are the main push and pull factors that lead to the extreme vulnerability in which migrants in an irregular situation find themselves in Mexico. The report tells of how they are victims of various human rights violations, a situation that is exacerbated by other vulnerability factors apart from their immigration status.

The increase in criminal violence in recent years in Mexico has had a particular impact on people in transit, who are in a vulnerable situation and are victimized. This has posed very complex challenges for the Mexican State. This situation calls for the State to take every measure necessary to safeguard the security of persons within its jurisdiction, which obviously includes migrants. The lack of a citizen security policy specifically geared to preventing, protecting, and prosecuting crimes committed against migrants is a serious problem that must be urgently addressed. Furthermore, the State’s response to crime and drug trafficking through the actions of police and military forces in many cases has only contributed to an increase in violence and human rights violations committed by State agents, rather than ensuring the safety of those in Mexico.

The report also discusses cases involving abuses and crimes committed against migrants by drug trafficking organizations and organized crime. These include massacres of dozens of migrant persons, as well as massive abductions of migrants in transit through Mexico. The report includes personal testimonies of survivors of these situations, as well as of people whose relatives disappeared en route to the United States and the various hurdles they face as they try to find them.

In the case of children and adolescents, the situation of extreme vulnerability is worsened by a series of risks they face due to their age and level of physical and mental development. They migrate in search of international protection from such factors as persecution, violence, exploitation, mistreatment, or neglect in their country of origin. The report states that children and adolescents are frequently subjected to verbal and physical abuse during their journey through Mexico. The Commission is particularly concerned that the State’s response to unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents may often be to criminalize and incarcerate them.

Women migrants are also particularly vulnerable. Sexual violence has become part of the journey for many migrant women in transit to the United States, who also face the threat of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or prostitution of others.

In its analysis, the Commission took into account concrete, consistent indications that many of the serious violations of migrants’ rights occur in a context of abuse of authority by State agents who belong to the National Institute of Migration or the various police forces. This situation is aggravated by the obstacles faced by migrant persons and their family members in gaining access justice, which leads to a situation in which the crimes and human rights violations against them go unpunished.

In addition, the report refers to the situation of internally displaced persons in Mexico. The context of violence has meant that more and more people have been forced to uproot themselves within the country. The lack of official information as to how extensive internal displacement may be shows how invisible the problem is. Nongovernmental organizations have estimated that there are more than 160,000 internally displaced persons in Mexico.

The report also looks at the exponential increase in recent years in attacks and threats against those who defend migrants’ human rights. It also includes testimony indicating that human rights defenders have been criminalized by federal, state, and municipal government agents for their defense of migrants. The adverse context in which those who defend migrants’ rights have to work has had a direct impact on the defenders’ lives, person, liberty, security, and honor.

One of the major problems the Commission identified is that criminal investigations give preferential attention to crimes associated with the smuggling of migrants, as opposed to the more widespread and more serious problem of violence and discrimination against migrant persons. This leads to continued impunity for many extortions, robberies, kidnappings, human trafficking, killings, and disappearances to which migrants and other persons fall victim in the context of human mobility in Mexico.

The report also finds that the moment Mexican authorities come into contact with a migrant, asylum seeker, refugee, or other person in need of international protection, immigration detention is the rule rather than the exception. Furthermore, once migrants are in immigration detention, they have little chance of being released while their immigration cases are ongoing. The Commission acknowledges that new legislation enacted by the State of Mexico represents progress in terms of bringing a human rights approach to the issue of migration; nevertheless, it believes that a real paradigm shift will require the State to adopt all measures to ensure that immigration detention is the exception and to make alternatives to detention the general rule.

Finally, the report addresses the difficulties related to the recognition of the economic, social, and cultural rights of persons who live in Mexico in an irregular migration status. These persons face difficulties when it comes to regularization and access to immigration documentation. There have also been cases involving refusals to register Mexican-born children as Mexican citizens, in violation of their right to nationality. The information the Commission received also indicates that migrant workers tend to have more difficulty in having their labor rights recognized, as well as in gaining access to health and education.

The report includes recommendations to the State of Mexico, in order that it might adopt a comprehensive public policy geared to preventing, protecting, punishing, and redressing acts of violence and discrimination to which migrant persons and their family members fall victim; adopt all measures necessary to ensure that its policies, laws, and practices for dealing with irregular migration are in line with Mexico’s international human rights obligations; and guarantee nondiscrimination and the observance of economic, social, and cultural rights for migrant persons and other persons in the context of human mobility in Mexico.

The Inter-American Commission reiterates its commitment to work with the Mexican State to seek solutions to the problems it has identified, and it expresses its willingness to support the State in the implementation of the report’s recommendations to ensure that these are effective.

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 area. 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. 88/14