In April, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which was established through an agreement between the government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), issued its final report on the case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero State. The report documented egregious flaws in the government’s investigation of the case, refuted key conclusions by the Attorney General’s Office, and called on authorities to pursue fresh lines of investigation. Other continuing problems in Mexico include attacks on journalists and limited access to reproductive rights and health care.
Mexican immigration authorities apprehended more than 20,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in 2015 and more than 14,000 in the first ten months of 2016, detaining the vast majority. Many fled persecution and violence, and as many as half may have had strong cases for asylum, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Yet Mexico’s refugee agency, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados, COMAR), afforded international protection to just 57 unaccompanied children from these countries in 2015 and 96 in the first 10 months of 2016, less than 1 percent of the total number of unaccompanied children apprehended in these periods. The discrepancy between the large number of unaccompanied children with plausible claims and the very small number who apply for and receive asylum is due partly to the fact that many immigration enforcement officers are ill-equipped and disinclined to evaluate children’s protection needs and instead focus on detention and deportation.
In October, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that Mexico would strengthen its refugee recognition procedures and “develop alternatives to immigration detention for asylum seekers, particularly children.” These changes had not been implemented at time of writing.