The number of unaccompanied Central American child migrants detained in Mexico doubled between 2014 and 2015, and 2016 is set to record soaring statistics again, prompting calls for reforms to the country’s controversial U.S.-backed southern border policing program.
According to data from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission reported by local media Tuesday, the number of apprehended minors from Central America spiked in Mexico from 10,943 in 2014 to 20,369 in 2015. Some 70 percent of detentions last year took place in just three southern states of Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz.
In the first seven months of this year, 10,000 more unaccompanied children were detained, putting 2016 on track to hit similarly high numbers by the end of the year. The vast majority — nearly 98 percent — are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, also known as Central America’s Northern Triangle. The total number of migrants detained is also, in total, much higher if children traveling with their families are also taken into account.
What’s more, data revealed that the majority of apprehended minors — nearly 68 percent — were not given the appropriate treatment for children and adolescents in family facilities, but rather were detained in the same conditions as adults, according to statistic reported by La Jornada.
Experts warned that such experiences constitute a violation of children’s rights.
The national human rights body called for Mexico to “revise” the border security policy Plan Frontera Sur, which translates to Southern Border Plan. Mexico’s launched the plan in July 2014 at the height of the so-called child migrant crisis in the U.S. to crack down on the waves of undocumented Central American migrants crossing Mexico’s historically porous southern border en route to the United States.
Authorities tout the Southern Border Plan as helping to expedite the process of granting visitor and temporary foreign worker visas, but the program has also ramped up border patrols and rail security and increased the number of formal border checkpoints, targeting human smuggling rings and spiking detentions. Critics say that SBP and the controversial U.S.-backed security program, the Merida Initiative — which promotes the plan — pushes undocumented Central Americans toward ever more perilous migration options such as Mexico and works as a proxy in the U.S. war on migrants.
Washington has contentiously pushed a US$750 million aid package known as the Alliance for Prosperity for the Northern Triangle in the name of stemming runaway migration by tackling poverty, insecurity and violence in the region. But critics argue that the model of ramping up resource extraction, militarization, and privatization threatens to worsen inequality and spur a wave of human rights violations without solving the root causes of the crisis.
According to a Congressional Research Service report released in April, the number of unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle has been on the rise since 2011. While child detentions skyrocketed in Mexico, U.S. apprehensions of unaccompanied minors fell 45 percent in 2015 after hitting more than 52,000 in 2014.
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