Detention of migrant children in Mexico shows increase
Teenagers between 16 and 17 years of age are most likely to be arrested by migration authorities, accounting for 22% of overall detentions - Photo: Edwin Hernández/EL UNIVERSAL

Detention of migrant children in Mexico shows increase

Alexis Ortiz
Mexico City
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Sparked by U.S. threats, Mexico has taken stronger measures to stem migration

Amidst the migration crisis in Central America, Mexico’s Federal Government has taken stronger measures to stem migration.

However, the National Migration Institute (INM) reported a significant increase in the detention of foreign children and adolescents between December 2018 and April 2019.

During this time, authorities captured a total of 12,311 minors, a number that was 24% higher than in the previous year, during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto.

According to experts, this is a symptom of the country’s crisis in terms of migration, as well as the vulnerability of children and adolescents in Mexico.

Teenagers between 16 and 17 years of age are most likely to be arrested by migration authorities, accounting for 22% of overall detentions. However, there were also 381 cases in which babies under 12 months old were captured.

Once the boys, girls, and adolescents are captured, Mexican authorities send them to 68 migration posts and provisional enclosures, as well as both federal and local sub-delegations throughout the country.

Out of all the detainees, 92% are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, while the rest are from another 35 nations, including Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Ethiopia, Russia, Andorra, Yemen, Nepal, Guinea, Eritrea, Pakistan, Iraq, Belize, Afghanistan, Uganda, Vietnam, Cuba, India, Angola, Congo, and Haiti.

The INM has even captured six persons of Mexican origin, though the institution has not yet clarified the motive of their capture.

The arrest of minors and their delivery to migration stations has spiked despite an agreement signed by the Commission for Migrant Children and Asylum Seekers from the System for the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents (SIPINNA) and Tonatiuh Guillén, who recently resigned his post as head of Mexico’s Migration Institute. The agreement stated that children and adolescents would no longer be held at migration stations.

“There will be no more children held at migration posts because we will prioritize the protection of the human rights of migrant children and adolescents above national security,” he had claimed.

His comment was backed by Alejandro Encinas, under-secretary for Human Rights, Population, and Migration at the Ministry of Interior (SEGOB).

The Mexican state of Chiapas has shown the highest number of migrant detentions and it is estimated that four out of every 10 underage migrants are captured there, followed by Veracruz, with 1,736 foreigners captured; Tabasco, with 1,086; Oaxaca, 881; Tamaulipas, 717; Coahuila, 358; Nuevo León, 356; Mexico City, 208, and San Luis Potosí, with 191.

On the other hand, Baja California Sur, Durango, Jalisco, Guerrero, and the State of Mexico have registered the least cases.

The report also shows that 60% of migrants captured are male, and 40% female.

Experts have agreed that the detention of underage migrants must be stopped, since Mexico doesn’t have proper spaces to lodge them while guaranteeing the protection of their human rights.

Enrique Vidal Olascoaga, member of the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center, described: “Migration stations are like a prison, with 24-hour surveillance. In order to get in or out, one must go through several doors and rooms are small cells with nothing but a cement plank. The Siglo XXI Migration Station even has punishment cells.

“This can be extremely intimidating to children, who only wish to get out of there as soon as they can. They usually end up preferring to be deported than continue to be held at INM holding centers,” he told.

Young migrants have also commented that centers from the National System for Integral Family Development (DIF) are in very poor conditions.

“We have observed a series of human rights violations. Holding centers are more like prisons and the underage migrants are not allowed to go out or take part in the procedures,” stated Enrique Vidal.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Friday that DIF centers could be used as an alternative to accommodate underage migrants.

Rosalba Rivera Zúñiga, coordinator of the Migrant Children Department from the Migrant Women Institute (IMUMI), claimed that Mexico offered a legal framework that was deeply protective of children, however, the country has not seen a full compliance with federal law.

Following the death of a 10-year-old girl from Guatemala at the Iztapalapa Migration Center in Mexico City, a local court granted a suspension so that the INM could build a plan to prevent children and adolescents from remaining at said station.

However, several organizations have claimed that the legal measure should be extended to the rest of the country.

Moreover, some migrants have remained in migration facilities for days, weeks, or even months, during which they are abandoned in a legal limbo.


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