According to the latest annual report on the Norwegean Refugee Council (NRC), Central America is by now a scenario of internal displacement of thousands of people trying to flee from criminal gangs and drug cartels: 289.000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in El Salvador and 278.000 between Honduras and Guatemala. Migrants decide to flee to the United States after witnessing and undergoing unimaginable levels of violence which remains largely unpunished. Once in Mexico, not only are they denied refugee status, but they are often stopped just across the border between Guatemala and Mexico to be deported in their countries of origin.
This is one of the main consequences of the Programme “Frontera Sur” which has been implemented in Mexico for nearly a year now, following an agreement with the United States, with the promise, in paper, to protect migrants. The reality is that the rights of those who decide to flee Central America are systematically violated by the Migration agents, the Police, the Military and even by members of the Beta Group – which should in principle have humanitarian purposes. Since the beginning of the Programme, more than 67.000 migrants were deported from Mexico, notwithstanding the dangers they face once back in their countries of origin, as demonstrated by the skyrocketing levels of violence registered in the statistics of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
A direct consequence of the Programme is an increase in the violence migrants undergo during their journey: unable to travel by train and forced to choose alternative, more dangerous and hidden routes, migrants are the third source of income for criminal cartels, after drugs and arms. Narcos and human traffickers, abduct migrants to extort money from their families, asking up to 10 thousand dollars per person. All this happens amidst the total silence of authorities.
The main victims of violence are women and children. Sixty migrant women in 100 are raped during the journey, according to Amnesty International. Aware of this risk and in order to prevent pregnancies, they take a contraceptive injection with a three-month-coverage, also called anti-Mexico injection.
The situation is tragic also for minors on the run, increasingly alone. During the first five months of 2015, Mexican authorities deported 3.819 unaccompanied minors, a 56% increase compared with the same period in 2014. They flee from the violence of maras and pandillas of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras: the street gangs that make of Central America the area with world’s highest rate of homicides. Being repatriated for them translates into a forced recruitment by the gangs which leads to certain death.
The only objective of Programme “Frontera Sur” is to prevent at all costs and by all means the migrants’ access to Mexico, in order to minimise their possibilities to reach the United States’ border. Yet, the current situation is a proof that the Programme did not succeed in stopping the migratory flow, which continues like if not more than before: despite all, migrants continue to undertake this dangerous journey because they have no alternative.
The only help along the way comes from the albergue, refuges dedicated to them and managed by courageous Human Rights Defenders, where migrants are welcomed and sheltered.
One of these is LA72 in Tenosique, at the border between Guatemala and Mexico: Soleterre supports LA72 in its activities of welcoming the migrants and providing them psychological and legal support. In the last year LA72 registered an increase in violations perpetrated against migrants by organised crime, criminality and Mexican authorities, particularly the National Institute of Migrations (INM) and the Federal Police.
One year on, rather than stopping the flow of people trying to enter Mexico irregularly, the Programme “Frontera Sud” has meant for them an increase in the number of persecutions, violence and death.
It is a concrete example of why repressive policies and “walls” cannot be an answer to migration flows, and this should constitute a warning to Europe as well.
Soleterre will continue to support LA72, to document and report abuses on migrants and to demand respectful and humane migration policies both in America and in Europe.