Migrant Crisis in Central America: Mexico needs to protect migrants in its territory

The refugee crisis in Central America is serious: it is estimated that 400 000 people transit from Mexico to the United States annually. Mexico’s programme “Frontera Sur,” put into place in mid-2014 to respond to the crisis, is only exacerbating human rights violations throughout Central America, leaving migrants without protection and vulnerable to all sorts of crime, extortion, and violence perpetrated in complete impunity.  Furthermore, a rapidly increasing number of unaccompanied minors  and women and children have been arriving at shelters, desperate to escape from the violence experienced in their home countries.  No protection mechanisms are accessible to these migrants, and the authorities that are supposed to protect them are showing increased violence towards them. 

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has noted that 2016 is proving particularly deadly for migrants and asylum seekers, and has called for the international community to address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, prevent discrimination, and promote inclusion.

Franciscans International (FI) is dedicated to addressing the issues surrounding migrants and asylum seekers from a human rights perspective, focusing on the protection of migrants and their rights, and has been working with the Franciscan migrant shelter La 72 for over a year, to raise international awareness about the situation of migrants in Central America. 

On June 15th, FI joined a large group of NGOs in hosting a discussion at the UN in Geneva, about issues surrounding Central American migration. FI arranged for Ramon Marquez, Director of La 72, to share his experience on a panel of experts.  Along with Caritas’ National Director in El Salvador, Antonio Banos, Mr. Marquez pointed out the increase of crime and human rights violations surrounding migrants making their way North, through Mexico.

He noted that out of 10’000 migrants received at La 72, more than 1’000 confessed to have suffered human rights violations in Mexican territory; and that out of 150 reported cases of such violations, only 14 received protection. Calling the event a humanitarian crisis, the panellists called for the Mexican government to take clear measures to address migrants’ rights on their territory, to ensure better protection for them, and to enable access to effective justice.  They noted how violence had become structural and generalised across the country, and plead for quick action.

The evening prior to the discussion at the UN, FI and partners screened the movie “Viacrucis Migrantes”, a documentary film about the men, women, and children fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and end up at La 72. The screening was held at Cinéma du Grütli, a popular Geneva movie-theatre, in the presence of director Hauke Lorenz and Ramon Marquez, and was followed by a lively discussion around the issues brought up by the film.  

FI used the opportunity of Mr. Marquez’ visit to introduce him further to key NGO partners in Geneva. He also participated in UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and IOM (International Office for Migration) consultations about how to best face migration issues, and met with key staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Read the oral statement delivered by La72 and FI to the Human Rights Council on June 14th.