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Mexico: Migrants at risk of mass detentions

    Tuesday, June 11, 2019 - 11:53


    While negotiations are ongoing between the USA and Mexico around possible tariffs on Mexican goods, hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers are being detained on Mexico´s southern border. 

    On 5 June, Mexican migration and National Guard agents detained approximately 400 people on the highway near Metapa in Chiapas state. They took the detainees to an overcrowded detention centre. Many were deported the following day without proper explanation about their right to seek asylum or ability to explore other migratory options in Mexico. On 6 June, the government announced the deployment of 6,000 National Guard members to Mexico´s southern border. 

    The mass detention of migrants and asylum seekers without prior individualized assessments violates international law. These detentions and expedited deportations undermine the rights of people fleeing their countries to seek international protection and their due process rights. In addition, returning people to territories where their life or safety may be at risk violates international law. These measures place migrant families and children at great risk and will not stop them from fleeing their countries. 

    Please send a tweet or letter to the Minister of Interior.

    • Start with Dear Minister and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Express concern about the mass detention of 400 migrants and asylum seekers on 5 June on Mexico´s southern border and the announced deployment of 6,000 members of the National Guard. 
    • Call on her to immediately prevent arbitrary detentions of migrants and asylum seekers and ensure that children are never detained.
    • Insist that her government replace the deployment of the National Guard with a humanitarian response that individually assesses the needs of people entering Mexico.  

    Write to

    Olga Sánchez Cordero 
    Minister of Interior 
    Calle Abraham González No. 48 Col. Juárez 
    Cuauhtémoc. Ciudad de México 
    C.P. 06600 MÉXICO 
    Twitter:     @SEGOB_mx  or  @M_OlgaSCordero 

    Please copy
    His Excellency Juan José Ignacio Gómez Camacho
    Ambassador for Mexico
    45 O'Connor Street, Suites 1000 & 1030
    Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1A4
    Fax:         613 235 9123
    Phone:        613 233 8988  or  613 233 9272
    Twitter:    @EmbaMexCan

    The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    111 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
    Postage:    None required
    Fax:         613 996 9607
    Phone:        613 992 5234

    Additional information

    On 30 May 2019, US President Trump announced that the United States would impose a 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico unless the flow of migrants arriving to the United States´ southern border decreased. This provoked a series of bilateral negotiations that continue to date in which the United States continues to threaten an increase in tariffs in coming months if the flow of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border does not decrease. 

    In the days following the US President´s announcement, Mexican authorities have implemented a series of measures aimed at deterring migrants and asylum seekers to enter through Mexico´s southern border, including the mass detention and deportation of at least 400 migrants, in violation of Mexican and international law. On 5 June, members of the INM (National Institute of Migration), Federal Police and National Guard detained a group of approximately 400 migrants and asylum seekers walking peacefully along the highway near Metapa, Chiapas. The group included families, adolescents, infants and small children. Some hold residence permits in Mexico; others have no papers. Many are from Honduras and other Central American countries. According to information received by Amnesty International, people were loaded onto buses and taken to the Siglo XXI Migration Detention Centre in Tapachula, Chiapas. 

    Amnesty International received information based on testimonies of people detained in this operation. They were kept on the buses in the parking lot of the detention centre for at least 8 hours without food or water, only to be taken into custody into the detention centre which has been overcrowded for some time. This is particularly worrisome because the hundreds of children and infants are at risk of being detained in conditions that put their physical and mental health at grave risk and violate Mexican law which prohibits the detention of children in migration detention centres. These heavy-handed tactics add to a series of increasingly harsh responses to thousands of migrants and asylum seekers along Mexico´s southern border in recent weeks. The tactics have included holding asylum seekers for months in holding cells designed for stays of 48 hours and expedited deportations carried out without allowing migrants to access legal advice or understand their rights properly. On 6 June, the Mexican government announced that the heavy-handed tactics will continue with the deployment of 6,000 National Guard elements to its southern border to respond to the entry of migrants and asylum seekers. 

    According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 people enter irregularly through Mexico’s southern border each year. At least half of these people could need international protection as refugees. Many of these people come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- some of the most dangerous countries in the world, given the situations of violence and lack of government protection in their countries.   

    If you want updates on this case, send your request to with “Keep me updated on UA 84/19 Mexico” in the subject line.