rights/vulnerabilities of migrants in transit

photoAgain I find myself studying the vulnerabilities of persons in transit, migrants, or “peregrinos” as staff at the local office of Caritas here in Mazatlán refers to them. There is too much to say in one blog post about the situation of Central Americans in transit para “el Norte” and too many images to share: the role of NGOs and people of faith- such as Caritas and local Catholic parroquias- in offering shelter, showers, meals, medical attention and a safe place to rest to migrants; the role of the authorities (municipal police, immigration officers) in protecting or violating migrants’ rights (some of the worse assaults against transiting migrants are perpetuated by the police who rob, extort, and otherwise threaten them); the ways members of local communities respond in solidarity- offering food, a phone call home, a shower – and show the best side of human kindness; the violence perpetrated by gangs and other armed actors against migrants in transit; the violence of the journey itself, with the treacherous journey by train resulting in exhaustion, skin rashes, dehydration, limb loss/falls/injuries, even death; and the trains themselves, “la bestia”, the huge steel wheels creaking along tracks that in an instant can mean loss of limb or life for a migrant atop. Today in a visit to the local migration delegación, this picture was on a wall, trying to warn migrants of the dangers of transit. Indeed, the Mexican migration authorities told us, their role in this transnational story of movement, violence, and displacement is “purely administrative”, as a 2012 migration law in Mexico reinforces a reformed, and more humanitarian, discourse about migrants –no longer referred to by immigration officials here as “illegal” but as “extranjeros sin documentos” or “personas no documentadas”, the officials’ role is not to “deport” but to “return”, and they assert that this is a “humanitarian gesture”, given that the most dangerous part of the journey lies in the deserts ahead, sending people back, via plane and consulate intervention, to their home countries may indeed be a life-saving act. Or is the humanitarian response that of the local Caritas group, which offers showers, a clean bed, a change of clothes, and a warm meal before migrants travel onwards towards their dreams/illusions of a better life?


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