Lives (not leaves) on the line
Amnesty released a report today detailing the horrific dangers faced by migrants attempting to reach the US by crossing Mexico. Some powerful accompanying images feature in the Guardian’s gallery. To many of us reading it, this is brand new information and it is grim reading. Rape, torture, muggings, kidnap and executions are but some of the dangers that the migrants know they risk. If it is new to us, though, it is not to the migrants who embark on the journey. They do so knowingly. It is hard to imagine the sheer desperation and sense of compulsion that must drive individuals and families to make the trip in spite of these probable hazards.
The report documents the alarming levels of abuse faced by the tens of thousands of Central American irregular migrants. Armed gangs now routinely target the migrants for kidnapping and demand ransoms from their families back home, or relatives in America. There is also real concern that the authorities are complicit in the abuse in many instances, or at best indifferent.
In addition to the threat of kidnap and robbery, sexual violence is also common place on the journey, with six out of ten females reporting that they had been subject to an attack. Smugglers now routinely demand that women receive contraceptive injections ahead of the journey, to avoid unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape; it is so common an occurrence. The report calls on the Mexican government to act immediately to prevent and punish the systematic abuse of migrants.
It should be noted, that the Mexican government has often stated its commitment to protect the rights of migrants, whatever their legal status and is a leading promoter of migrants’ rights on the international stage. Yet, despite some welcome measures in recent years, for example better protection of the rights of unaccompanied children and criminalisation of people trafficking, this has often in reality failed to prevent and punish abuses against migrants, as the report details. It is all well and good criticising other countries and their treatment of migrants, but the Mexicans should also look closer to home. It brings to mind the oft paraphrased words commonly attributed to Voltaire ‘tend to your own garden’. We will be tracking changes.
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