Amnesty Int’l says Mexico fails to offer migrants asylum
MEXICO CITY (AP) — An Amnesty International survey of 385 Central American migrants suggests that Mexican authorities routinely force people to return to dangerous conditions in their home countries, the rights group said Tuesday.
Seventy-five percent of the migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who were interviewed said they had not been informed by Mexican immigration agents about their right to seek asylum in Mexico.
The report also said that “people seeking asylum whose lives are at risk in Central America are very frequently pressured into signing ‘voluntary return’ deportation papers.”
It cited the case of a Honduran bus driver who was killed three weeks after he was returned to his country from Mexico, despite the fact that street gangs in Honduras frequently target bus drivers for extortion.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute acknowledged there was room for improvement, but denied it forced or tricked people into signing voluntary return papers.
The Institute said it uses promotional materials to inform migrants of their rights, including posters, videos and pamphlets distributed at detention centers.
It also noted the increasing number of asylum claims Mexico has granted.
Relatively few people used to ask for asylum in Mexico, but high rates of violence in Honduras and El Salvador, and political and economic disruption in Venezuela, have led to large increases in asylum applications over the last five years.
In 2017, 14,596 people asked for asylum in Mexico, a 66 percent increase over 2016. Of those, 1,907 requests were approved in 2017.
The 2017 increase was fueled in part by a spike in asylum requests from Venezuelans. Requests from El Salvador and Honduras rose by only about nine percent.
Last year’s increase was not as big as the jump between 2015 and 2016, when asylum applications increased by 2 ½ times, after asylum requests from Hondurans and Salvadorans more than doubled.
Mexican authorities say Central American migrants often decide not to pursue asylum claims after they learn how long it will take. The process can last for months, and sometimes years.
Mexico allows consuls from most Central American migrants’ home countries to meet with them, to help ensure their rights are protected. But Amnesty took issue with that practice.
“International practice tends to shield asylum-seekers from contact with their consular authorities, as a form of protection against the risk of identification, retaliation and human rights violations at the hands of state agents,” the group wrote.