The first known death of a child detained by Mexican migration authorities under the current presidential administration is a sickening tragedy that demands answers from a government that promised to be more humane to migrants and refugees, said Amnesty International today.
“At a time when children are dying in United States migration custody on the other side of the border, President López Obrador’s government is overseeing a crackdown on migrants and refugees that is resulting in the careless treatment of human lives. This suggests an alarming parallel with the current approach of the Trump government,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
On 16 May, Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) announced that a 10-year-old Guatemalan girl died in hospital, where she was transferred after arriving at Mexico City’s migration detention centre in the company of her mother two days earlier, complaining of a sore throat. INM had brought her back from the northern border state of Chihuahua via bus, a trip of nearly 20 hours.
Amnesty International has documented at length the grave risks migrants and asylum-seekers are already facing along the US-Mexico border due to the policies of the US and the acquiescence of Mexico. For its part, on 29 January, the US government commenced the “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as the “migrant protection protocols”, under which US authorities have forcibly returned thousands of asylum seekers to Mexico while they await the final adjudication of their asylum claims in the USA. This policy violates international refugee law. The Mexican government did not refuse to cooperate with this policy.
Hundreds of people who are still waiting in Mexico for their court hearings in the United States on their asylum proceedings are stuck in legal limbo – and potentially dangerous situations. Chihuahua is one of the states where hundreds of asylum seekers are being forced to wait under this policy. In addition to the “Remain in Mexico” policy, US and Mexican authorities are also forcing asylum seekers to wait for weeks or months on an illegal asylum waitlist before allowing them to request protection, which some said has put them in danger.
In April 2019, Amnesty International met with Mexican municipal, state and federal agencies in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, who confirmed that the Mexican government had not provided any significant funding or coordinated relief efforts for the thousands of asylum seekers who are returned to Mexico. Border areas in Chihuahua state such as Ciudad Juárez are currently experiencing a high number of migrants and asylum seekers without significant additional resources from Mexican authorities to provide for their adequate shelter and care.
The INM has a responsibility to inform as to whether this 10-year-old girl was apprehended by Mexican migration agents in this border area, as well as other circumstances surrounding her detention that ultimately ended in her death.
According to Mexican government data, 31,675 foreigners were placed in migration detention centres between January and March 2019, including 8,569 children under 18. In this same period, Mexican authorities have deported 22,614 people back to their countries of origin, 5,997 of whom were under 18.
Mexico’s laws on children’s rights expressly prohibit authorities from holding children in migration detention centres. Nevertheless, INM detains thousands of children on a yearly basis. The majority come from Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which in recent years has been experiencing high levels of violence that have forced many people to leave in search of protection.
Based on the information available to Amnesty International during the last five to ten years, deaths of children in immigration detention in Mexico are extremely rare.
Mexico: Open letter to Preisdent López Obrador 100 Days after the beginning of his government (News, March 2019):
Government must stop illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers to Mexico (News, 11 April 2019):
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