A new report from Human Rights Watch 9 (HRW) is critical of the Mexican government for fast-tracking the deportation of Central American migrant children who might well have valid claims for political asylum.
In a new 151-page report, “Closed Doors: Mexico’s Failure to Protect Central American Refugee and Migrant Children,” HRW reveals that less than one percent of children who are detained by Mexican immigration officials are accorded refugee status. According to HRW, Mexican immigration officials detained more than 35,000 children in 2015, a figure representing a 270 percent increase from 2013’s numbers.
“On paper, Mexican law appears to provide every protection for children who have fled their home countries in fear of their lives,” Michael Bochenek, senior children’s rights counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “But only a handful actually receive asylum, reflecting that even though Central American children and adults face serious threats, the government is not giving adequate consideration to their claims.”
Examples of violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador cited in the report include an 11-year-old boy who intervened in the attempted gang rape of a sister and was beaten; a 15-year-old boy who was threatened with death if he did not join a gang; a 17-year-old girl who was kidnapped and held for ransom; and a family that was forced to flee because of extortion.
“The murder rates in El Salvador and Guatemala were in the range of 40 per 100,000 in 2012, making them the fourth- and fifth-highest in the world that year. Honduras, with a rate of 90 per 100,000, has had the world’s highest homicide rate for several years running, although recent reports suggest that El Salvador may now hold that dubious distinction,” a passage from the report reads.
“Children are specifically targeted by gangs in these three countries. In Honduras, for example, over 400 children under age 18 were killed in the first half of 2014, most thought to be the victims of gang violence. It is not uncommon to hear reports of 13-year-olds, or even younger children, being shot in the head, having their throats slit, or being tortured and left to die.”
The study also contextualizes a sexualized component of the contemporary violence in Central America:
“Crimes of violence against women and girls are high in all three countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle. In Honduras, for example, violent deaths of women in Honduras increased by 263 percent between 2005 and 2013. Impunity is the rule for femicide and crimes of sexual violence, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women found during a visit to the country in July 2014. Similarly, the special rapporteur found during her 2011 visit to El Salvador that murders of women had nearly doubled between 2004 and 2009. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have the first-, second-, and fourth-highest female homicide rates in the world, respectively, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Armed Violence report.”
In a finding that sheds more light on the extent of U.S.-Mexico collaboration in stopping and deporting migrants long before they reach the northern border, the international human rights group said the increased detentions of migrant children south of the border partially reflect “surging United States government financial support for immigration enforcement by Mexico starting in mid-2014, when record numbers of Central Americans, including unaccompanied children and families with children, began to arrive in the U.S.”
HRW contended that Mexico’s detentions of unaccompanied migrant children violate Mexican law, which stipulates that such minors should be transferred to the national child protection system and detained “only in exceptional circumstances,” as well as international standards enunciated by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that call for the cessation of child detention based on immigration status.
“Mexico has a right to control its borders, but migrant children should not be held in detention. Mexico can provide appropriate care and protection to unaccompanied and separated children in a variety of ways, whether by housing children with families or in state or privately run facilities,” Human Rights Watch stated in a press release announcing the publication of its report. “While some may need to be housed in closed facilities, locking children up in prison-like settings does not meet international standards.”
In addition to files and data from Mexican immigration and refugee agencies, HRW’s report was based on interviews with more than 161 Central American migrant children and adults, Mexican government officials and representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The report includes recommendations for both Mexican and U.S. policies.
Interested readers can view the document at the following link: https://www.hrw.org/node/287389/
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Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico