Promoting Access to Justice for Migrants & their Families

By Karen Heredia / Jesús Robles Maloof

(Para Español)

We are in a critical moment for human mobility. Across the world, migration intensifies as do the dangers to the people who migrate.  In Mexico, migrants come primarily from Central America and in transit, they run great risks of violence, kidnapping, abuse, extortion, death and disappearance at the hands of organized crime.  Extreme examples of these massacres regularly make the news: the two massacres in the state of Tamaulipas—San Fernando (2010) and San Fernando (2011)—and one in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon where 49 people were kidnapped, murdered, dismembered, and abandoned on a rural road.  These are grave crimes against humanity that remain impune.

Migrants are not the only ones who suffer from this horrific human tragedy. The families that migrants leave behind in Central America are also devastated by the loss of their loved ones which is exacerbated by their inability to fully access justice in Mexico from their home countries. Because it is difficult for them to participate in the search for their missing relatives without having to move to actually be in Mexicowith all the costs and administrative difficulties involvedfamilies do not have a clear path to communicate with the Mexican institutions responsible for carrying out the research.  Lastly, it is almost impossible for families to search for their missing relatives and to recover human remains of people who died or were killed in another country. 

To address these difficulties, families have organized themselves and, with the help of human rights organizations, like Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD), they have proposed the creation of a transnational mechanism for migrant justice. In March 2015, during a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington D.C., the Mexican government listened to these familiesapproving and committing to the creation of a regional mechanism to facilitate the search for disappeared migrants, establishing a forensic database for unidentified remains and enabling access to effective justice that is available to the victims through diplomats in their region. Just at the end of last year, on December 18th, 2015, the mechanism was finally announced.

The approval of this mechanism is certainly a step in the right direction but there are still two things necessary: 1) It should be recognized that the mechanism is a proposal from the victims themselves and from organizations after years of continuous effort, with recommendations to Mexico from international organizations and 2) The appointment of a responsible person with a suitable profile and the allocation of resources, human and material, to handle the thousands of cases of missing migrants and victims of crimes during their transit through Mexico.  The fact that families are from different regions of Central America requires the proper coordination and communication between all countries in the region to ensure that the regional mechanism measures are implemented and the mechanism to fulfill its purpose.

One key sector of support are diplomats. Mexican embassies, located across Central America, are uniquely situated for families to report missing relatives. Reporting a relative missing to a local embassy saves families a trip to Mexico—a trip that is costly, not only economically but also emotionally. For this reason, embassies and other public-facing offices must have staff ready to engage with the mechanism. Ultimately, the support and willingness of these public servants will be critical for its success.

To gain this support, N-Map produced a video with FJEDD to tell the stories that have led to the creation of a regional mechanism and urge diplomats to back their government’s implementation efforts during this important moment. The video is central to advocacy efforts that will include meetings and trainings (with human rights organizations, embassies, and chancelleries) with officials and other decision-makers in the area (like judicial actors, heads of state, and congress members).

We hope that the successful implementation of this mechanism will help thousands of families achieve justice and establish a model for inter-state coordination that can be shared worldwide. There are thousands of people victimized by tragedies resulting from migration every year, and the Americas are a place to attempt new solutions to the horrific injustices that result from migration throughout the Western Hemisphere, and globally.  N-Map, with our partners, is developing video tools to advance new and creative solutions to this crisis. Join us in this hope: share the video and support organizations that labor every day to ensure no human being is illegal.

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