Vanishing Human Rights: Mexico’s migration policies

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For decades, Mexico and the United States have discussed migration policies. A long history of mutual convenience triggered the creation of public and private institutions that aimed to regulate migration. The protection of human rights was by far at the top of the agenda on the Mexican side. Anyhow, things have changed. Mexico’s demands to protect illegal migrants in the U.S seem now odd. Political instability and insecurity in most of the Central American countries have exhibited the incapacity of the Mexican government to handle a humanitarian crisis.

United Nations reported that Mexico and the United States hold the biggest amount of international migrant populations with 15 million Mexicans living in the United States.  This migratory corridor is so immense in terms of mobility that not even Asian countries have reported similar numbers even though they have larger populations. Despite international reports and suggestions about the current humanitarian challenges in the Mexican southern border, the Mexican government seems to disclaim the relevance of protecting Human Rights and their binding elements under international law to avoid human trafficking and other abusive practices against migrants.

Since 2018 when president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected, transitory migration in Mexico has escalated up to 232% compared to previous administrations. There is no doubt that rhetorics and ideological stands played a paramount role during AMLO’s electoral campaign. In theory, left-wing progressive regimes would have a favorable view of human rights and to some extent be committed to respect basic human rights.  Before holding office, AMLO was determined to de-militarized domestic affairs by the creation of a national civil policy. However, and despite the actual creation of a the National Guard, migration policies are still using extreme cohesive methods. Contrary to what many believe, Chiapas and the Southern border have become areas were the military and the national guard have organized massive detention centers.

During 2019, the number of migrants that attempted to get into Mexico reached nearly 450,000. According to the Mexican National Migration Institute, 71,000 were deported and the rest were dispersed in Mexican territory. Nongovernmental organizations and charity groups have reported abusive practices and racism from police forces and other border patrol offices. International media has been able to get in touch with some of the migrants whose families were separated and even kidnapped by local authorities in Mexican territory. The BBC interviewed Fernanda, originally from Honduras. Her tragic story ended up by sending her 7-year-old son alone to the U.S – Mexican border after she suffered hunger, segregation and insecurity in northern Mexico.

Stories like the one Fernanda shared with the BBC are rapidly increasing across the Mexican territory. Yet, since January 2020 larger migrants groups have been systematically targeted by the Mexican authorities. Pepper spray, detention camps, and deportation are now the priority in the agenda of AMLO’s foreign office. While the Mexican Human Rights Commission remains silent. It seems like overall, Human Rights are not a priority and that  inclusive policies towards migration are far from being an option for the current administration.

Watch Out for the Sultan – Erdoğan in Libya

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The unprecedented escalation in Iran following the assassination of military mastermind Qassem Suleimani by one of Donald’s drones overshadowed another highly interesting development in the Middle East lately getting a new spin: Turkey entering the conflict in Libya.

With this step, that explicitly is at odds with the advices of many other stakeholders in “a failed state par excellence”, as observers say, not least the Arab League, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shows his claim to great power status.

This action appears in line with Erdoğan’s (over)confident self-perception of Turkey being a rising power that urges for its share in a multipolar world and is willing to apply blunt power politics whenever and wherever necessary.

Previous actions by his neo-Ottoman Excellency underline that. Be it infrastructural mega projects like the construction of Istanbul’s new airport, the first road tunnel under the Bosporus, or his newest desire, a canal through Istanbul. Be it his increasingly authoritarian rule finding its expression in press censorship, a purge targeting intellectuals, or his hunt for political opponents from both the Gülen Movement and the left-wing party HDP.

Yet, his attempts of showing off with his power have an international scope, too. Libya, where Turkey’s engagement did not just start last week, in that respect lines up in a row with Northern Syria, where Erdoğan tried to kill two birds with one stone. Pursuing a buffer zone to the war-torn neighbor to resettle refugees residing in Turkey coincided with a military warning to his archenemy, the Kurds, being home in and around that very region. Besides, Turkey made demands on natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, by heating up the Cyprus conflict, Europe’s longest frozen conflict.

Now, one might jump to the conclusion of perceiving Turkey as nothing but becoming another dubious Middle Eastern autocracy, but beware! This is far from reality. Ankara is the pivotal element of many conflicts in the region and thus of crucial interest to the international community.

It is Turkey that keeps myriads of refugees from entering Europe. The end shall not justify the means, though Turkey thereby effectively does the EU’s dirty laundry. It too is Turkey that sits at the table with Russia and Iran negotiating about how to bring an end to the war in Syria. This triangle can be considered the forum that is most likely to achieve this goal. And Turkey is the most pro-Western member, being part of NATO and, yet with neglectable prospects for success, EU candidate country. At the same time, Ankara is the gateway from Europe to the Middle East, not least being a member of the OIC.

Bearing this in mind, the international, particularly European, community shall have a critical but conscious look at Turkey that repeatedly and insistently shows it is not willing to be a mere passive actor of the fight for hegemony in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The whole world focusing on Tehran in those days might open the back door for the sultan.

SECURITY IS NOT JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

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An article published last week describes the new constructions on the border wall that Donald Trump promised as one of his landmark campaign goals. The publication shows the US President signing one of the sections of the wall built in El Paso, a very straightforward declaration on Trump’s policy to stop illegal immigration. Although the wall Trump promised is nowhere near completion, the rhetoric and accompanying strategy have already created obstacles to the true problem: insecurity.

During the campaign, the issue was framed by Trump as securing the border from dangerous criminals who slipped into the US from Mexico. The wall is meant to be a symbol of the physical efforts to stop the illegal flow of people into the United States whilst the administration also applied many controversial measures that lead to children being separated from their parents.

All the promises were made based on describing immigration as a rapidly growing phenomenon that brought insecurity to the US. The reality is that studies show that migration from Latin America, and especially from Mexico, has actually decreased. This does not mean that migration has stopped, the refugee crisis existing at the border shows that many still try to enter the US legally to try and escape the insecurity in their country of origin.

One of Trump’s claims about the wall is it would also help in stopping the smuggling of drugs into the US. Not only would that be inefficient but it also obscures the US’s responsibility in what is indeed a security issue. The insecurity created by the drug trade affects the entire continent. And as much as the existing portions of the wall have been useless in preventing ‘criminals’ and drugs going into the US it has also failed to block weapons from leaving the United States and into criminal groups in Latin America.

According to reports by NGOs, in the period of 2014 to 2016, “50,133 guns that originated in the United States were recovered as part of criminal investigations” in various countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. That number only reflects a small portion of weapons that fuels existing criminal conflicts in many countries of the region. However, Trump’s rhetoric and constant accusations never recognise the responsibility of the United States in creating such unsafe environments to migrants.

How Bosnian war refugees forgot their recent past

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Violence, harsh living conditions, traumatic experiences in their countries of origin, risky travelling, loss of control, security, money, health, family, dignity. They go through their personal Golgotha to escape their war torn homeland and end up in a country that knows war very well.

And then they end up in a whole new type of hell, surrounded by a landmine field. Migrant camp Vučjak in Bosnia & Herzegovina could easily be one of the most inhumane places in Europe. Since 2018, the EU has issued €36 million to B&H to deal with the refugee crisis. Although a number of non-governmental organizations claim that most of the money for managing migrant crisis is used for militarisation of the police, the EU representative claims otherwise: 94% is spent on migrant care.

Migrant camp Vučjak
Source: N1

Well, not in Vučjak, so it seems. On October 21, even the water supply delivery was stopped. With the winter coming, conditions are worsening. ‘Only a matter of time when migrants will start dying’, claim Doctors Without Borders. Although Bosnian government was issued by the EU to urgently close the Vučjak camp almost a month ago and to find a better solution for those people, only a few days ago was it announced that they would be transferred to two old military barracks.

But there is another problem: the reaction of local communities. They don’t want migrants anywhere near. They claim it’s a security issue. The migrant crisis is even being manipulated in everyday political crossfire based on nationalism (like pretty much everything else in Bosnia). Fake news have been produced in order to raise anti-migrant attitudes. In a study that is to be published in December, a half of respondents have expressed negative attitudes towards migrants, even without having any contact with them.

Those people are left to the mercy of a few individuals. Could they have imagined worse destinies as they embarked the ships to a better future?

But why would Bosnians think otherwise anyway? It’s not like they led one of the bloodiest wars in recent European history. It’s not like 2.2 million people were forcibly displaced. It’s not like nearly half a million of them fled B&H. It’s not like they were left with nothing.

It’s not like they know what war and fleeing mean.

A woman refugee from the Serb-besieged Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.
Source: AFP / Pascal Guyot