Report of the Special Rapporteur on Migrants to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

For full report, see PDF attachment at end.

U.N. Document #: E/CN.4/2003/85/Add.3

Executive Summary

At the invitation from the Governments of Mexico and the United States of America, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants visited the common border between the two states from 7 to 18 March 2002, with a view to investigating the human rights situation of migrants who cross that border.

To that end, the Special Rapporteur met with the migration authorities of the two countries, border patrols and local and consular authorities. She also met with civil society and with migrants. The Special Rapporteur ended her visit in Washington, D.C., where she met with federal authorities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), members of the Congress and the Senate, and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs).

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur was able to observe the magnitude of the flows of migrants who cross the border every day. Many migrants attempt to enter the United States without documents after hiring the illegal services of smugglers. In many cases, smugglers extort money from migrants and abandon, deceive and/or mistreat them. Those who manage to enter the country of destination arrive in a very delicate physical and psychological state and with no more belongings than what they are wearing.

The Special Rapporteur also observed the economic disparities between the two countries and their impact on migration. On the Mexican side of the border, the Special Rapporteur noted the presence of thousands of impoverished migrants hoping to enter the United States. The local authorities with whom the Special Rapporteur met expressed their concern at the decline in living conditions in their municipalities owing to the presence of such migrants.

In her interviews with migrants, the Special Rapporteur noted that the lure of a larger labor market and the possibility of a more dignified future obscured the risks of an irregular crossing of the border. The greatest risks that the Special Rapporteur identified, and which migrants described in statements about their own experiences, are the following: lack of protection against smugglers in the irregular crossing of the border; the problem of trafficking in persons; excessive use of force against migrants; crossing of the border through dangerous areas; vulnerability of children on the border; racist, xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes; and the conditions in which undocumented migrants are detained, especially when they are in the custody of private security agencies.

The Special Rapporteur also noted that the two Governments are making efforts to improve the situation of migrants on their common border, in particular through bilateral agreements. The Special Rapporteur also noted that Mexico had instituted a significant consular policy.

On the basis of all the meetings held and information received during her visit, and after examining the situation of migrants on both sides of the border and the measures taken by the Governments to improve it, the Special Rapporteur recommends, inter alia:

– The wider dissemination of information to potential irregular migrants concerning the dangers involved in crossing the border in certain areas and in the hands of
smugglers;

– Joint emergency and rescue operations for migrants, combined with such preventive measures as the placing of water tanks in deserts;

– The strengthening of legislation and measures to combat the smuggling of and
trafficking in migrants;

– Increased support for migrant centres administered by civil society on both sides of the border, and the strengthening of the National System for the Integral Development
of the Family (DIF) with a view to providing better care for deported minors;

– In addition to providing training on migration regulations and human rights, the inclusion of mental health issues in the training of migration officials;

– Special training for all agents of private security companies who hold migrants in their custody;

– Regular visits to migrant detention centres by NGOs so that such organizations can continue to provide them with legal and psychological assistance;

– The strengthening of bilateral migration agreements and the implementation of new programs to regularize the situation of migrants;

– Campaigns to prevent racism, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants. In particular, courses for migration officials and members of border patrols concerning
this problem.

The Special Rapporteur would like to thank the Governments of Mexico and the
United States of America for having enabled her to carry out her visit and for providing all the facilities for the visit. She also thanks the NGOs for their valuable assistance and information.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur would like to thank, in particular, the migrants with whom she met for their valuable statements. The Special Rapporteur invites the Governments of the two States to take into consideration and follow up this report and its recommendations in a spirit of
dialogue and cooperation with a view to improving the situation of migrants on the border between Mexico and the United States.

Full Report of the Special Rapporteur (2002)