Committee on Rights of Migrant Workers
7 September 2017
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Mexico on its implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Introducing the report, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, noted that the best way to counter those who tried to discriminate against migrants was to recognize the positive contribution that migrants made to host communities. They contributed to nine per cent of the gross global product, which amounted to approximately 6.5 trillion USD. In the period between 2012 and 2016, Mexico had seen an increase of 84.5 per cent in the migration flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. With approximately 5.6 million irregular Mexican migrants in the United States and the changing migration policies in that country, the Government had to adjust its institutional structures and programmes to respond to all the facets of migration. Accordingly, Mexico was ready to welcome Mexicans in the United States who may be negatively affected by the decision of the United States Government to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.
In the ensuing discussion, Experts expressed concern about the widespread use of detention for different categories of people on the move. They inquired about alternatives to detention, implementation of voluntary return for migrants from Central America, disappeared migrants and the status of the draft bill on the enforced disappearance of migrants, detention of migrant children and the situation of child migrant workers, detention conditions, consular support, the use of remittances, social security protection for migrants, vulnerability of women migrants to trafficking and the gender dimension of migration, crimes committed against migrants, and training programmes on a human rights-based approach to migration for border officers, police, judges and judicial personnel.
Other issues raised included Mexico’s position on President Trump’s proposal for building a wall between Mexico and the United States, the consequences of the recent decision of the United States Government to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, the return policy for Mexicans living in the United States, the investigation of clandestine mass graves of migrants, dealing with trafficking mafia and corruption among public servants, strengthening the access to justice, truth and reparations for all the migrants whose human rights were violated, harmonisation of migration laws, consular support programmes for Mexican migrants in the United States, and public awareness campaigns to fight negative stereotypes about migrants.
In his concluding remarks, Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, welcomed the measures taken by Mexico to address its complicated migration situation. He encouraged the Government to look at the structural causes of migration in Mexico, coordinate regional responses, and to look at the recommendations made by the Committee to Honduras and El Salvador.
Maria Landazuri De Mora, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, highlighted Mexico’s adequate cooperation with civil society and the incorporation of their input into national policies. She said the dialogue had allowed for a better understanding of the situation in Mexico, adding that the Committee wanted to improve the living conditions of Mexico’s population.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Cabañas noted that Mexico had many challenges in dealing with migration but that it was finding adequate responses. Migration was not considered as a security issue. But sometimes it was necessary to apply the security aspect in practice. Mexico was going to respond very positively to the obligations that it had undertaken within the framework of the Global Compact process.
José Brillantes, Committee Chairperson, noted that Mexico occupied a leading position in the field of migration, adding that it was not surprising that it played such an important role in the negotiation process leading up to the adoption of the Global Compact. He expressed hope that both the Committee and Mexico would be able to influence that process in a positive manner.
The delegation of Mexico consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Ministry of Governance, and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 13 September, at 5:30 p.m. to close the twenty-seventh session.
The third periodic report of Mexico can be read here: CMW/C/MEX/3.
Presentation of the Report
MIGUEL RUIZ CABAÑAS, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said that Mexico was committed to the effective protection of the rights of all migrants. The best way to counter those who tried to discriminate against migrants was to recognize the positive contribution that migrants made to their host communities. They contributed nine per cent to the gross global product, which amounted to approximately $ 6.5 trillion. Since 2012, Mexico had transformed from being a country of origin to a country of destination. In the period between 2012 and 2016, there had been an increase of 84.5 per cent in the migration flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Those movements included men and women, girls and boys who migrated to escape poverty or lack of opportunities, due to natural disasters, sought reunion with their families in the United States, or fled violence and insecurity. Recently, a higher number of women, girls and unaccompanied minors had been observed. The Government of Mexico had made efforts to strengthen the protection of the human rights of Mexicans living abroad, most of them in the United States. To that end, it had worked to enhance regional cooperation with Central American countries.
There were approximately 5.6 million Mexicans in the United States in a situation of irregular migration. That reality had motivated the Government to adjust its institutional structures and programmes to respond to all the facets of migration and migrants’ needs, such as the 2011 reform of the Constitution and the 2011 Migration Law, which guaranteed respect for the human rights of migrants and prohibited discrimination on the basis of origin. The National Development Plan 2013-2018 had established the necessity to provide protection for migrants and their families, whereas the Special Migration Programme had set up a coherent and cross-cutting approach to migration issues. The priority for the Government was the protection of the most vulnerable migrants, such as girls, boys and unaccompanied minors. Mexico had also advanced legislation harmonisation with respect to labour and social inclusion of migrants. The reform of the Labour Law in 2012 had introduced the principle of normative equality of all workers, regardless of their migration status. Organised crime continued to pose risks to migrants transiting through Mexico. In December 2015, the Government had created an investigation unit for crimes committed against migrants. Since 2013, the Victims Act had set up support, care, integration and comprehensive reparation measures for victims. Mexico criminalised trafficking in persons and the relevant law was applied to both Mexican and non-Mexican nationals. The country’s approach to the fight against trafficking was one of international cooperation and shared responsibility.
The process used to draw up Mexico’s periodic report and to answer to the Committee’s questions was done through three rounds of consultations with civil society. The multilateral climate could not be better and Mexico was working for the adoption of the Global Compact for orderly, safe and regular migration. Mr. Cabañas also addressed the recent decision of the United States Government to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which allowed certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. Mexico deeply regretted that decision and expressed concern about the future of thousands of young Mexicans born in Mexico, the so-called Dreamers. It maintained dialogue with the legislative branch in the United States and had established contact with the United States Department of Internal Security to find out details of that decision. It also called on the United States Congress to act as swiftly as possible. Mexico was committed to welcome the Dreamers and to support them upon return to their home country.
Questions by the Committee Experts
PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, highlighted the distinction between migrants and refugees, and the widespread practices that reflected a policy that sought to monitor mobility, and to detain and deport irregular migrants. Detention of different categories of people on the move was widespread. To what extent did the State party take into account the principle of proportionality when deciding about detention?
The vast majority of detained persons were returned to their countries of origin. What were the alternatives to deportation? How was voluntary return implemented? What legal remedies were available to detained migrants?
As for the issue of disappeared migrants, some 32,000 persons had been estimated to have disappeared. What were the results of investigations into those disappearances, namely of the mass graves in San Fernando, Tamaulipas? What was the current status of the draft bill on the enforced disappearance of migrants? How were risks at migration routes assessed?
As for migrant children, one of the issues was that despite the existence of a comprehensive law, there were implementation challenges. Were there efforts to harmonise relevant legislation on the detention of children? How were the best interests of the child enforced? Who was responsible for deciding the future of the child. How was legal assistance to children guaranteed? What protection measures had been adopted for child migrant workers?
MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, commended the interest and the good will demonstrated by Mexico to share information with the Committee. As for the system of information gathering, was the gathered data used to draft laws and regulations? What were the results of migration awareness raising training for public servants?
More information was requested about detention conditions in Mexico with respect to hygiene, contact with families, and treatment by detention personnel? Ms. De Mora condemned the United States’ policy towards migrants from Latin America, and she welcomed Mexico’s strengthening of its consular network. How many Mexicans had been detained and benefited from consular support?
How much was sent back to Mexico in remittances? It was unfair of the United States to impose taxes on those remittances. What measures had Mexico taken to deal with that situation, Ms. De Mora inquired.
How were different laws in Mexico harmonised and what measures had been taken to harmonise labour legislation with the Convention? What was the social security protection for migrants in Mexico? In which way did the State party regularise communication with the vast number of Mexicans abroad?
Women migrants were often victims of trafficking. Was there a gender equality law and was there any comprehensive analysis of the recruitment of women as migrant workers?
Did Mexico have statistics on all the cases of crimes committed against migrants brought before the courts? There had been a lot of media coverage of such crimes.
Were there training programmes on a human rights-based approach to migration for border officers and police, and judges and judicial personnel? How did the State party deal with the trafficking mafia? What was the impact of the Three for One programme?
JOSÉ BRILLANTES, Committee Chairperson, wondered how come Mexico was prepared to welcome all Mexicans returned from the United States following the decision of the United States to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, while some instances in the United States had announced that they would fight that decision. What was the position of Mexico on President Trump’s proposal that a wall be constructed on the border between Mexico and the United States? Would Mexico pay for it?
Replies by the Delegation
MIGUEL RUIZ CABAÑAS, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, noted that for decades Mexico had been a country of origin, transit, destination and return for migrants. It was also a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of migrants from Central and South America. The Mexican experience of migration was, therefore, practically unique. Recently, Mexico had seen more migrants returning to, rather than leaving Mexico. Therefore, the country had to swiftly adjust its migration policies, which was a difficult task in light of the fact that Mexico was a federal State. International and regional cooperation was the only path to successfully tackle the challenges of migratory flows. Economic, demographic and climate change factors in the region influenced migration trends in Mexico. Mexico had to show solidarity in line with the principle of shared responsibility. But it could not deal with migratory flows alone and without commitment from the United States.
Mr. Cabañas noted that Mexico was working to develop a comprehensive system of protection of migrants, both Mexicans in other countries and foreigners in Mexico. The Government would support the Dreamers, following the abolition of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme in the United States, because they were Mexican citizens who did not need to inform the Government about their whereabouts. The Government wanted the Dreamers to know that they had options. The Government was going to keep a close eye on the developments regarding the DACA programme in the United States. As for the wall proposed by President Trump, it was an item on the bilateral agenda between the two countries. If the United States wanted to build that wall on their side of the border, it was the prerogative of the United States Government. Mexico would not pay a single cent for that wall.
The delegation explained that the 2012 Migration Law covered all aspects of migration. It was the result of the commitment of the Government and civil society to place migrants at the core of public policies. The Government coordinated with various agencies and levels of government in the country to implement the Special Migration Programme. In 2014, the Mexican President had announced the coordination of all three branches of government – the Southern Border Programme – aimed to establish a safer southern border. It was not a programme to push back on migration, but it was part of the National Development Plan to promote safe and orderly migration.
Migration management was not under the auspices of the Southern Border Programme. Police forces took part in migration management to ensure the safety of migrants. The aim was to manage and not to constrain migratory flows. Part of that management was to provide information about undocumented migration. The Government had set out the rules for voluntary return and for temporary migration regularisation. Return was seen as a right rather than punishment. Detention was not automatic and the law provided for alternatives for vulnerable categories of migrants, such as pregnant women and asylum seekers. The primary concern was ensuring the safety of migrants. The law set out the sanction of deportation in case of illegal entry. However, it was rarely applied.
Migrants remained in migration centres only for short periods of time and in dignified conditions. They were given the opportunity to apply for international protection and to regularise their status in Mexico. The Government did not overlook the basic principles of due process. As for the presence of children in migration centres, that was an exceptional measure, taking place before the start of the administrative procedure. They were housed in migration centres on a temporary basis, separated from adults, and were given child protection services. The National Institute for Migration had mechanisms allowing for asylum applications and recognition of statelessness. Swift procedures were in place for granting international protection.
A plethora of training courses was provided to civil servants on the protection of the human rights of migrants.
Second Round of Questions by Committee Experts
In view of the number of Mexicans abroad, was migration a choice for Mexicans? Was there a return policy for Mexicans living in the United States? What was the contribution of Mexicans in the United States to Mexico’s economy?
PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, asked about special programmes and resources for public defenders. He observed that there was still a very large number of children in migration centres.
MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, inquired about the system of reparation for victims of human trafficking and trafficking in migrants. Why were some 90 per cent of cases archived? Didn’t the facilitation of return in fact place migrants at risk when they were fleeing violence?
Replies of the Delegation
The delegation said that the Migrants Unit within the Public Prosecutor’s Office had been set up to provide access to justice to migrants and their families, search for disappeared migrants, investigate the crimes committed against migrants, and to coordinate and supervise reparations for victims. The most recurrent crimes were deprivation of liberty and trafficking in migrants. As of July 2013, there were 213 disappeared migrants. The National Search Commission was aiming to streamline all the information about all disappeared migrants. There were no statistics on how many migrants had been injured during their travels.
With respect to the results of the fight against trafficking in migrants, there were approximately 50 cases resulting in a sentence. Currently, there were four recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission regarding migrants.
Public officials in Mexico were doing their very best to counter crimes against migrants.
As for the San Fernando Tamaulipas massacre, the Government was still investigating it and so far 15 persons had been held responsible in relation to the case. The Government was also working to investigate the case of the 49 bodies found at Cadereyta Nuevo León in May 2012, and the clandestine graves found in 2011. Mexico had signed in 2013 an agreement with a team of Argentinian forensic experts to identify the body remains in the three massacres.
On 9 January 2013, the Government had promulgated the Law on Victims to strengthen access to justice, truth and reparations for all the victims of violations of human rights, regardless of their nationality and migration status. The Law on Victims acknowledged the comprehensive right of victims to reparations, and it recognised the particular vulnerability of persons on the move. One of the novelties of the law was the availability of a legal advisor to victims. The law had so far provided assistance to 1,674 migrant victims.
With respect to migrant children, their protection was headed by the Federal Executive Office. The challenge was to strengthen the budgetary resources for their protection. There were 4,000 children in migration centres in 2011, whereas in 2016 their number rose to 42,000. That increase was linked with the fact that the legal system had given greater visibility to specific cases. The Government was now focusing on unaccompanied minors in migratory flows. There were specialised investigative agents and police officers in matters related to children issues. The fundamental framework for the institutions that provided care for unaccompanied minors was the best interest of the child. The Mexican Government was committed to provide effective and comprehensive care to migrant children.
With the support of UNICEF, the Government was working to gather relevant statistics and indicators on migrant children in order to channel their concerns more specifically and to come up with relevant policies. Progress had to be made to effectively implement the protection of migrant children in a cross-cutting manner and to guarantee that every child was treated with dignity. The right to life and the best interest of the child were the guiding principles in that effort.
With respect to migrant children working in coffee plantations in southern Mexico, the Government had set up the minimum age for admittance to the labour market. It had undertaken special operations to detect any abuse of agricultural workers and to eradicate child labour. Both the public and private sectors were involved in those efforts. Minors were immediately released if found to be working. The sanctions for employers who contracted minors included prison sentences from one to four years of imprisonment.
In Mexico, migration was seen as very much linked to economic development. The Government was of the view that migrants should be fully included in development programmes. The proportion of remittances in the gross national product amounted to 2.5 per cent, which was lower than the proportion of the Mexicans abroad. Remittances did not lead to dependency of the economy like in some other Central American countries. The Government was looking to find ways to decrease the cost of sending remittances back to Mexico. The one for three programme aimed to multiply the value of earnings of Mexican migrant workers and to generate the linkage between the diaspora and social development. The Government aimed to ensure that the contribution of migrants was properly valued.
Harmonisation of migration laws in Mexico was a challenge due to its federal structure. There was no point in harmonising them unless there was a budget to uphold their proper implementation.
Detention only took place when migrants were found in irregular migration situations. The challenge for Mexico was to reverse the trend of irregular migration flows, and to increase the number of irregular migrants approaching Mexican authorities voluntarily in order to regularise their status. The Government was trying to ensure due process in that respect, namely to provide legal assistance to migrants.
As for providing refuge on the basis of gender violence, Mexico was committed to strengthen that protection and to enhance the State’s capacity to grant international protection to more refugees. There were mechanisms to channel reports of abuse of migrants perpetrated by public officials. The overarching goal was to increase the trust in the ability of institutions to address that problem.
Third Round of Questions by Committee Experts
PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, inquired about human rights defenders dealing with migrants’ rights who had received threats and had been harassed. What reparation measures had been provided to children? How did the State party ensure that irregular migrants regularised their situation and that their labour rights were upheld?
How did the Government ensure the labour rights of temporary Mexican workers in Canada and a gender-based approach in recruitment? How could the State party ensure that the return of migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala was voluntary?
Mr. Ceriani noted that the principles of proportionality and necessity should be upheld when deciding whether to detain irregular migrants. The detention of children could be seen as a cruel and degrading treatment.
How was the Government checking migratory routes? What steps had been made to adopt the International Labour Organization No. 189 on domestic workers? Was there any mechanism to protect the right to health for undocumented migrant workers?
How many sentences had been handed down for crimes committed against migrants? How was assistance provided to migrants’ families? Was there a system to communicate with migrants’ families?
What was the role of the municipal police, the army and the navy in managing migration? How did they cooperate with the migration authorities? As for the San Fernando II clandestine graves, was there a suspicion that municipal police had been involved?
MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, asked whether Mexicans were ready to live alongside migrants, and about the inclusion of migrant children in Mexico’s education system. What policies were in place to promote solidarity with migrants and to ensure that migrants were not associated with crime?
What was the scope of policies for the protection of Mexican children whose parents went abroad to work? Were there mechanisms available for the elimination of gender-based violence? What channels of communications had been used with civil society?
How did the Government deal with the huge flow of Cuban migrants, Ms. De Mora asked.
Experts inquired about the response of the Mexican Government to the disappearance and murder of migrant children. As a country of origin, transit, destination and return of migrants, the Government needed a huge response to a huge problem, they observed.
As for corruption, it was encouraging that the Government recognised that problem.
How did the State party design its consular support programmes in the United States? Did it have alliances with Mexican civil associations in the United States?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that since 2013 there had been a mechanism to protect human rights defenders and journalists.
All migrant workers were channelled to reparation services. As for temporary agricultural workers, the Government undertook regular meetings with employers to assess their situation. The Government also had in place specialised programmes to provide protection to migrant children living on the streets.
Turning to the issue of transnational justice for Mexican migrants in the United States, the Mexican consular network in that country had a programme on foreign legal assistance for them.
As for voluntary return, the vast majority of Central Americans did not want to stay in Mexico but to go to the United States to join their families. When detained in Mexico, there was a protocol for their return to their countries of origin. According to the migration law, they needed to ask for asylum if they wanted to stay in Mexico.
Due to the rise of transnational crime groups that smuggled cocaine to the United States, the Government of Mexico had been forced to involve the army to counter them. The army was the only one able to respond to their firepower capacities. On the Mexican-United States borders, there were 9,000 armouries.
As for the conditions in detention centres, migrants were provided with adequate services. There were problems with accommodation, but there were also efforts to improve the conditions.
Investigation standards with respect to enforced disappearances were in line with international standards. With respect to the disappearance of migrant children, Mexico had federal and local competences in relation to the kidnapping of children. At the federal level there were already some trials taking place.
The participation of civil society organizations in deliberations on migration issues was taking place on an ongoing basis. All of their suggestions were considered by the Government when it designed relevant plans, actions and programmes. Due to the changing nature of migration, the Government had to cooperate with both the private and public sector.
Speaking of the legal assistance to detained migrants, the delegation noted that that was the area which needed most strengthening, mostly in budgetary and human resources, in order to better meet the needs of detainees. The Government was committed to improving targeted legal assistance in cooperation with civil society.
Mexico had not completed the ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention No. 39 on domestic workers due to the lack of budgetary resources. The Protocol on Unaccompanied Minors had been applied in all Mexican consulates since 2016.
Communication with migrants’ families from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador was done through the consulates of those countries, and through Mexican consulates in those countries. Recently, there had been an increase in the request for asylum in Mexico from nationals from those three countries.
Mexico forbade any restriction on the provision of education to migrant children, and had conducted awareness raising campaigns to combat negative stereotypes about migrants.
Mexico had a large consular network in the United States and in that way it provided protection services to Mexican migrants there.
PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, welcomed the measures taken by Mexico to address its complicated migration situation. He noted that the Committee’s role was to help the Government of Mexico to address those challenges. He encouraged the Government to look at the structural causes of migration in Mexico, coordinate regional responses, and to look at the recommendations made by the Committee to Honduras and El Salvador.
MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, highlighted Mexico’s adequate cooperation with civil society and the incorporation of their input into national policies. She said the dialogue had allowed for a better understanding of the situation in Mexico, adding that the Committee wanted to help Mexico improve the living conditions of the population.
MIGUEL RUIZ CABAÑAS, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, noted that Mexico had many challenges in dealing with migration. But the Government was finding adequate responses and it was trying to coordinate responses at different government levels. Migration was not considered as a security issue. Sometimes it was necessary to apply the security aspect in practice. Mexico had set very high standards to achieve and it was subject to global scrutiny. It was going to respond very positively to the obligations that it had undertaken within the framework of the Global Compact process.
JOSÉ BRILLANTES, Committee Chairperson, commended the delegation of Mexico for its thorough and relevant presentation and answers. Mexico occupied a leading position in the field of migration, and it was not surprising that it played such an important role in the negotiation process leading up to the adoption of the Global Compact. Mr. Brillantes expressed hope that both the Committee and Mexico would be able to influence that process in a positive manner.
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