Mexico must investigate shocking spike of attacks and killings of migrants

Mexican authorities must urgently investigate a shocking spike of violent attacks against undocumented migrants by criminal gangs and provide a safe haven for survivors, said Amnesty International.

More than 200 migrants, including several children, were violently attacked and several killed by armed groups in two separate attacks in the last two weeks. The whereabouts of more than 130 are still unknown, prompting fears for their life and security.

“Mexico has become a death trap for migrants, with vicious criminal gangs at every corner waiting for their opportunity to attack them for a few dollars, while authorities at the state and federal level are more eager to deport people than to save lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Many migrants have died and disappeared while trying to reach the USA in the past few years, the only question left is how many more lives have to be lost before authorities wake up and decide to take action.”

On Friday, several men armed with pistols, shotguns and machetes attacked a group of around 100 Central American migrants travelling on a cargo train near the town of Las Choapas, Veracruz, in southern Mexico.

The armed men demanded money from the group who were travelling to the US border, before attacking them.

According to local authorities interviewed by Amnesty International, only 44 people, including five children, were able to escape and reach a local town. Authorities transported them to a detention centre run by federal migration authorities where they have been in touch with their consulates to consider their options, which may include returning home, obtaining a humanitarian visa for Mexico, or in some cases applying for asylum.

One man was severely injured from a bullet wound and at least two others were badly beaten. Some migrants are considering making declarations to authorities regarding the attack yet many others are too scared to do so. In the meantime, authorities have not given clear information on actions taken to search for the rest of the group or investigate the crime.

In a separate incident, on 2 June, armed men dressed in military outfits attacked a group of around 120 Central American migrants in the state of Sonora, in northern Mexico.

Survivors told Amnesty International they were travelling to the US border when one of the vehicles they were travelling in broke down.

They said it was then that a group of armed men wearing military outfits approached them and fired at them indiscriminately. At least 13 of them escaped the attack and made their way through the desert to safety.

Amnesty International has interviewed some of these survivors. Authorities have rounded them up and have initiated procedures to return them back to their countries, as requested by the migrants, who went through a traumatic experience.

Two days after the violent incident, the Attorney´s Office of the State of Sonora said they found three bodies and two burned vehicles where the attack took place.

However, official investigations have not produced details on who is responsible for the attack and over the fate of the survivors, many of whom are still missing in the desert or are feared to have been abducted by the criminal gangs.

According to information published in recent months in national media, Mexican immigration authorities reported that from 2013 to 2014, reported kidnappings of migrants increased tenfold, with 62 complaints registered in 2013 and 682 in 2014.

“Migrants are forced to live in the shadows and Amnesty International has in the past documented extensive failures to investigate crimes committed against them in Mexico. With dozens of men, women and children potentially lost in the desert with no food or water or held by criminal gangs, there is no time to waste.”

“Authorities in Mexico must urgently begin searching for the missing migrants and ensure the safety of those who have been rescued. They must also initiate an urgent investigation into the wave of attacks against migrants and ensure those responsible face justice. Anything less will only put more migrants at risk,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

In addition, Amnesty International is calling for the survivors of these attacks to be given proper attention as victims of serious crimes, including immediate psychological and medical support as well as the possibility of obtaining a humanitarian visa to stay in Mexico while they carry out a criminal complaint.