Minors Crossing Borders: From the Mexico Report

Each year, 150,000 minors attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the USA. About 50,000 make the attempt without their parents.

And at Mexico’s southern border, most of the minors who attempt the crossing are unaccompanied. Some of the minors come from as far away as Ethiopia.

These are some of the findings reported by Mexico in its report to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers. See below for more:
Securing of foreign minors travelling alone

78. The situation of migrant child victims is particularly worrying. Of the roughly 150,000 minors who attempt to cross to the United States each year, either to be reunited with their families or simply to achieve a better standard of living for themselves, some 60,000 are deported. A third of minors who attempt the crossing do so without the company of relatives or with people smugglers.

79. Of approximately 200,000 Central Americans returned to their countries of origin from Mexico in 2004, around 17 per cent were minors, most were travelling unaccompanied and many were returning for the second, third or fourth time.

80. Upon securing an unaccompanied minor, INM alerts the corresponding consulate so that the latter can begin trying to locate the minor’s family and link up with a counterpart institution to DIF in the country of origin that will take charge of the minor. When the consulate informs INM that it has lists of family or institutional contacts and provides a safe conduct for the minor, INM begins the process of returning the minor to his/her country of origin.

81. DIF provides support for housing unaccompanied foreign minors aged under 12 years, provided that they fulfil the norms of the home in which they are placed, do not require special care (mentally handicapped children, among others) and stay only for a short time.

82. For minors who do not fulfil the foregoing norms, INM has built special facilities at the Iztapalapa migrant holding centre to shelter and care for adolescents under the Institute’s protection pending completion of the procedures for returning them to their countries of origin.

83. Travel tickets for minors are supplied mainly by INM, except in some cases where they are supplied by the minors’ own relatives and/or consulates. Each minor is accompanied during the transfer process by a migration official who is responsible for the minor’s safety until he/she is handed over to family members and the corresponding authorities in the country of

84. INM is currently working to fit out special areas for minors within its different facilities to provide them with the necessary care and protection.

85. As part of inter-agency cooperation measures, on 25 January 2005 DIF and the National School of Social Work of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) presented a methodology for the care of adolescent migrants, which is a model for the care of minors under INM protection at the Iztapalapa migrant holding centre. This model will be replicated in other
INM migrant holding centres.

86. In some cases, repatriation is delayed because consulates do not receive an immediate response from the institutions responsible for caring for children in their countries.

87. For the Mexican Government, it is important to keep families together. Accordingly, if foreigners travelling with minors are secured, the children remain at the migrant holding centre or else, at the request of their parents or relatives, are sent to DIF until the time comes for their repatriation.

88. On 19 May 2005, the Ministry of the Interior, INM and DIF signed an agreement establishing joint measures for repatriated unaccompanied Mexican and foreign migrant children and adolescents that is a basic tool for providing the necessary comprehensive, differentiated care to migrant minors in the country.

89. The object of this agreement is to lay the bases for cooperation among the participating entities, committing DIF to providing shelter for migrant children under age 12 through the network of public and private shelters participating in the inter-agency programme for border-area children and INM to doing the same for migrant children age 12 and over in migrant holding centres, in keeping with the methodologies, technical advice and training provided by the national DIF scheme.

90. During 2004, the Iztapalapa migrant holding centre housed 4,142 minors: 879 girls (21.3 per cent) and 3,263 boys (78.7 per cent). Of these, 624 (15 per cent) were aged 0 to 11 years and 3,518 (84.9 per cent) were in the 12 to 17 age group.

91. The minors came from 31 countries, the largest numbers coming from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and Brazil. There were also minors from countries outside the region: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Lithuania and Sierra Leone.

92. To deal comprehensively with the problem of the risks faced by vulnerable minors living in the country’s border areas, principally the northern border, an inter-agency project for the care of border-area minors was set up in 1996 under the Mexico-United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Cooperation Programme.

93. The purpose of the project is to provide care for such minors and ensure respect for their human rights from the moment when they are secured until they rejoin their families or communities of origin, through the coordinated efforts of the following entities: INM, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Scheme for the Comprehensive Development of
the Family, under the overall responsibility of the latter.

94. The project operates on Mexico’s northern border and work is currently under way on a specific programme for the country’s southern border, coordinated with the government of the state of Chiapas.

95. The inter-agency project for border-area minors comprises a network of 22 transit shelters throughout the length of the northern border, involving three levels of government and civil society organizations, to provide care for repatriated migrant minors.

96. From January to June 2005, 26,330 minors were repatriated, 3.6 per cent fewer than in the same period of 2004, and 14,108 minors were channelled, according to their characteristics, to the various public and private institutions belonging to the network of transit shelters, to other institutions that care for such minors and directly to their family members, 43 per cent more than in the same period of 2004.

97. It should also be mentioned that the implementing regulations of the General Population Act state that: “The Ministry of the Interior, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Scheme for the Comprehensive Development of the Family, shall promote agreements with state governments and state schemes for the comprehensive development of the family establishing mechanisms for cooperation and coordination in carrying out measures benefiting repatriated migrant minors, in order to guarantee their rights under the law.”

98. Accordingly, the Mexican Government has signed a number of agreements with United States authorities for the safe and orderly repatriation of Mexican nationals. These agreements establish places, times and procedures in each border state for safe and orderly repatriation, emphasizing the care that must be given to people in special circumstances, women who are pregnant and/or accompanied by infants, injured persons and unaccompanied minors.
Repatriated minors travelling alone are channelled directly by INM regional offices to municipal DIF schemes or network shelters.

99. The Beta Groups have also strengthened coordination with centres located in border areas that care for repatriated minors, as in the specific case of the state of Baja California where two centres located in Tijuana and Mexicali have been in operation since February 2004. On 18 November 2004, a c

entre for repatriated minors was also opened in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora.

100. The Mexican Government is continuing to set up new modules throughout the length of the border zone so that all minors can be handed over directly to DIF for channelling to the various shelters and handing over to their family members.

101. INM hands over repatriated minors to the DIF staff responsible for the module, where the minor is given a social, medical and psychological evaluation. Investigations are also begun to locate family members so that the minor can be returned to his/her family or community of origin.

102. Through its offices on the northern border, INM takes measures to back up and fulfil the objectives of the programme for the care of border-area minors by means of the following agreements and commitments:

− To reiterate the need to comply with bilateral agreements on orderly repatriation, emphasizing that INM offices may receive minors outside established hours only in cases involving their safety;

− To ensure the necessary compatibility between the operating hours of the National Institute for Migration and those of the social welfare institutions to which minors are channelled;

− To channel minors, at the moment of repatriation, directly to DIF or to the governmental and non-governmental agencies responsible for returning them to their families and places of origin;

− To make minors aware of their rights and discourage them from re-entering United States territory in the future;

− To strengthen the measures taken in the 11 northern border communities where the programme operates.

Measures on the southern border

103. Under the inter-agency programme for the care of border-area minors, efforts are being made to implement a care strategy for migrant minors on the southern border. To that end, a coordination group has been set up, comprising the national DIF scheme, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, INM, the Institute for Human Development (IDH), the Mexican Refugee Assistance Commission (COMAR) and UNICEF. As part of this strategy, the government of the state of
Chiapas, through IDH, set up a shelter for migrant minors in April 2005 in the city of Tapachula,
Chiapas, to offer comprehensive care to migrant minors. There are also plans to sign a local
inter-agency cooperation agreement among IDH, the national DIF, COMAR and INM to establish procedures for the care of Central American migrant minors in Tapachula, Chiapas.

104. The Agreement for the Safe and Orderly Repatriation of Central Americans on the Borders of Mexico and Guatemala, signed on 2 July 2004, establishes that unaccompanied minors shall be repatriated only through the intervention of officials of the consular and migration authorities of the Central American country concerned, guaranteeing at all times their integrity and safety and respect for their human rights.

105. In July 2004, INM travelled overland from the Iztapalapa migrant holding centre to the Tapachula, Chiapas, migrant holding centre to observe and improve the procedure for repatriating Central American adolescents. It also verified the kind of treatment and care given to adolescents when they were handed over to their migration authorities on the borders of Honduras and El Salvador, where there is no involvement of the authorities responsible for the
care of minors.

106. On 21 November 2004, the construction of the model migrant holding centre in Tapachula, Chiapas, began on a 30,000 sq. metre site in the state with the greatest volume and movement of secured migrants in the country. The centre has a projected capacity of around 960 temporary places and 490 overnight places, with specific areas for men, women, families
and minors. In keeping with applicable international standards, the project includes the construction of dormitories, interview rooms, rooms for medical visits, children’s and recreation areas, dining rooms, a laundry, a library, a social work and psychological care area and offices for CNDH staff. To view the Mexico report in English, French, or Spanish see the preview of an upcoming meeting of the Committee on Migrant Workers (Geneva)

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