Feature: Poverty, violence, unemployment create more Central American migrants

January 5, 2016 6:24 am 

MEXICO CITY, Jan. 2 — Poverty, violence and a lack of job opportunities have combined to lead thousands of Central Americans to risk their lives and uproot their families in illegal migration into the United States in 2015 for the "American dream."

Immigrants suffered from regular abuse, extortion and assault from organized crime groups, the police and immigration officials in Mexico, according to Ruben Figueroa, the spokesperson for Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano (M3), an organization that seeks to protect migrants.

For the thousands of Central American migrants striving to enter the United States via Mexico, their first challenge is to reach Mexico's southern border where they must avoid being caught by police, which would mean deportation by authorities or capture by organized crime groups, who could force them into sexual slavery or forced labor.

M3 believed that about 800 to 1,000 people reach Mexico illegally for eventual entry into the United States every day. Despite facing numerous perils in the country, Figueroa said, they felt "these cannot be worse" than the threat of death, violence and hunger that awaits them at home.

"They are motivated by their desire to reach the United States and find a better quality of life," said Figueroa, who has helped set up an immigrant shelter in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco.

VIGILANCE ON SOUTHERN BORDER

To try and prevent this situation, the Mexican government launched the Southern Border Program in 2014, which seeks to protect the human rights of migrants and bring their crossing under control.

The program saw the creation of five centers along the southern border to monitor and control crossings and deployed 5,000 federal agents to the Mexico-Guatemala border to dismantle organized crime groups that targeted migrants.

Besides, the government has sought to discourage migrants from illegally boarding a cargo train which crosses the Mexican territory, commonly known as "The Beast" or "The Train of Death."

While Mexican migration authorities have hailed the Southern Border Program as having helped rescue a greater number of migrants, critics regard it as "repressive."

For international organizations, such as the Washington Office on Latin America and the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, this program has not met its objectives.

In a visit to Mexico in June 2015, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed his concern that Mexican policies to prevent illegal immigration were too harsh.

According to official figures, over 250,000 people were detained for illegally entering Mexico in 2015. Around 41 percent of them came from Guatemala, 30 percent from Honduras and 19 percent from El Salvador. However, independent observers estimated the total number may be as high as 400,000. (PNA/Xinhua)

SCS/RSM

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