New US President Joe Biden has been urged to abandon a ‘devastating’ migration scheme which activists say has exposed tens of thousands of asylum seekers – many of them children – to violence, kidnappings and rape in some of the world’s most dangerous cities. .
The Trump administration created the “Remain in Mexico” program in January 2019 in an effort to deter asylum seekers trying to enter the United States through the southern border.
The initiative – which is officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – stipulated that asylum seekers should wait for their hearings in Mexican border towns such as Ciudad Juárez, Mexicali and Matamoros, and not in the United States. as before.
But activists said it exposed highly vulnerable migrants, mostly from Central and South America, to physical injury and disease in an unfamiliar and dangerous environment with some of the highest murder rates on Earth. .
In a report published on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch described how Trump’s policy “unnecessarily and predictably exposes [asylum seekers] at a considerable risk of serious harm”.
The group said those interviewed for its report, including children, “described rape or attempted rape and other sexual assaults, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, armed robbery and other crimes committed against them”.
“In some cases, immigration agents or Mexican police have committed these crimes,” the group added.
Michael Garcia Bochenek, senior adviser for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said his researchers had heard “really devastating” testimonies from asylum seekers about their plight in Mexico. He said the interviews left him impressed with the resilience of those affected but “completely devastated by what the US government was doing to people”.
“The truly shocking thing given consistent reports A really, really serious risk for people placed in the MPP – or returned to Mexico after attending hearings in the United States – is that US authorities have continued to place people in the MPP, including during the pandemic, and always refused to take people out of [program] when they present proof of such damage,” Bochenek said.
“I can’t help but draw parallels with other contexts I’ve seen,” he added, citing Australia’s longer-term offshore detention scheme.
“There is a similarity there. The offloading of people who only travel to a country to seek safety – and not just offloading them, but deliberately, or at least knowingly subjecting them to harm.
Donald Trump has championed policies such as Stay in Mexico – which has sent more than 69,000 people across the border, sometimes into ramshackle refugee camps – as a way to protect American citizens from “thugs” and “bad men”.
Biden pledged to drop the program but, apparently fearful of triggering a sudden surge in border arrivals, members of his transition team sought to lower expectations to do so immediately.
In a recent interview With Spanish news agency Efe, Biden’s domestic policy adviser Susan Rice said: “Migrants and asylum seekers absolutely shouldn’t Believe those in the area who peddle the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on Day 1. It won’t.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told Efe that Staying in Mexico had “been a disaster from the start and has led to a humanitarian crisis in northern Mexico.” “But putting the new policy into practice will take time,” he added.
Bochenek said activists don’t want to see “a border rush” after Biden takes office. “But it is reasonable to expect a controlled and orderly liquidation of the [MPP] system.
“It doesn’t need to take months. It can be done in a relatively short time with proper planning,” he said. “I hope we can take the [Biden] campaign promises at face value and see the kind of orderly but quick end to the program we hope for.