Oct 14, 2012

Violence in Mexico has triggered the voluntary repatriation of Central American migrants


Americas Program Original Translation

The return of migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to their countries of origin is not only due to an increase in operations by the National Migration Institute (INM) but also to the nightmare that the journey across Mexico to the United States has become.

Marcela Salas Cassini

Mexico. The incessant increase of violence exerted in Mexico—by delinquent groups as well as state and federal authorities—against Central American migrants is the principal cause of the repatriation of Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans who pass through the country in search of the more-distant-than-ever American dream.

“The route has become something much more complex than what it was before, which is why many migrants give up and voluntarily ask to be repatriated,” explained human rights defender, Martha Sánchez, from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement in an interview with Desinformémosnos.

“There are things that have always happened,” continued the activist, “but that now have blown up and exist on a grand scale: the Central Americans go without a cent and they have to pay organized criminal gangs the right to stand and wait for the train as well as pay the brakeman to get on the train. The presence of criminals has increased tremendously in Mexico State and the Bajío (low-lying region) corridor. All of this has caused there to be more voluntary requests for repatriation from the shelters; many of the migrants change their minds halfway through the journey upon seeing how difficult the situation is.”

From September 2011 to June of this year, around 49, 000 Central Americans were repatriated in operations carried out by the INM, which means a 22.9 percent increase after a constant decrease had been registered in this indicator since 2007.

Last month violent INM operations increased in Veracruz as well as Tabasco. Martha Sánchez warned that the situation is very alarming, so much so that even “Fray Tomás González Castillo, director of the shelter La 72, chained himself to the doors of the National Migration Institute regional office in Villahermosa,” in protest of the salvage and brutal operations carried out by officials of this agency against Central American migrants.

According to statements by Fray Tomás, the individuals are assaulted during raids and many end up with fractured arms and bruised ribs. For that reason, he said, these operations are beyond regulation and violate the migrants’ rights. Furthermore, the INM officials are not punished and their abuses remain in total impunity.

With regard to the diversity of nationalities, it is the Hondurans who have been most affected by repatriations with a 55.6 percent increase in removals to their country of origin; next are Salvadorans with a 44.1 increase and Guatemalans with 11.5 percent. On the other hand, the return of Nicaraguans decreased 29.8 percent during the same period of the previous year.

Martha Sánchez indicated that “after the coup, Honduras has suffered many problems from domestic and social violence, which somewhat explains the highest number of repatriations being Hondurans since a larger number of citizens from this Central American country try to make it to the United States.”

According to INM figures, Guatemalans are less likely to return to their country. Martha Sánchez assured that this is due to them still crossing Mexico through an “old” system of smugglers, with smugglers that they know from their cities; therefore, they come more carefully, they don’t take the same route as the others, that is, “yes, they take the same physical route but in trucks, they don’t get on the train, and they don’t sleep in shelters, but rather in small hotels,” which is why they do not come into direct contact with organized criminal gangs and they have greater possibilities of reaching the United States.

In 2007, 62,909 Central Americans were expelled, most of which were Guatemalans; the figure rose from 51,113 in 2008 to 53,113 in 2009, which practically remained the same in 2010. In 2011, 49,140 were repatriated. Then the new legislation on migration came, but there is no evidence that it has brought any benefit to foreigners in Mexico since the majority has been expelled.

“There has not been any improvement; the actions taken by the State are not in proportion to an increase in security for migrants. It’s as if they haven’t done anything at all; on the contrary, everything is becoming more and more complicated with the delinquent groups,” affirmed the human rights defender.

Over the past few days, the Secretary of Government alerted to the significant increase in migrants who are minors, coming from Central America, traveling alone, who cross the border into the United States and later are deported into Mexican territory. According to INM statistics, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of “returned” minors: from January to June 2011, around 2,238 minors were expelled to Mexico while during the same period of 2012, around 3,459 children and youth were returned.

Minors run the same risks as adults of being assaulted, beaten, bribed, kidnapped, raped and murdered, and furthermore, “they are vulnerable to being victims of trafficking. The trafficking of minors is one of the most serious problems and young people are the most at risk.”

“We have interviewed many migrant children and youth and the majority of them indicate that the reason for having left their homes and their countries was domestic violence, that is, they come running away from home, which complicates the problem of repatriation. Sending them home, far from signifying an improvement in their condition, means returning them to the hostile environment they are running away from,” concluded the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement activist.

Translation by: Libby Quintana

Click here to read orignal spanish article.

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