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Mexico's treatment of immigrants slammed

April 28, 2010 |  1:00 pm

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Tens of thousands of Central Americans enter Mexico illegally every year, most with the hope of continuing on to the United States. But many stay in Mexico, at least for a time, where they may be beaten, killed, raped, kidnapped by criminal gangs, put in jail or shaken down by corrupt Mexican officials.

That is the grim conclusion of a new report by Amnesty International, Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico.

"It is one of the most dangerous journeys in the world," the human rights organization says. 

Amnesty International called on Mexican authorities to act urgently to protect migrants "who are preyed on by criminal gangs while public officials turn a blind eye or even play an active part" in the widespread abuse.

The government responded quickly, saying it "shared [Amnesty's] concern" and was working to find ways to ease the harrowing plight of migrants, among whom there is a growing number of women and children.

Many who set out for the United States from Guatemala, Honduras and other Central American countries end up staying in Mexico because they run out of money or learn that opportunities in the U.S. have dried up. As we reported  last year, this poses a dilemma for Mexico, even as the government here is demanding better treatment for its nationals in the United States:

The treatment of immigrants has become a divisive and embarrassing issue for Mexico. A country that has historically sent millions of its own people to the U.S. and elsewhere in search of work, Mexico has proved itself less than hospitable to Central Americans following the same calling.

The Amnesty report says that up to 60% of female migrants suffer some form of sexual abuse; migrants are routinely forced to pay bribes; detention centers are woefully overcrowded, and victims are too terrorized to make formal complaints, rendering them "invisible."

-- Tracy Wilkinson ,in Mexico City

Photo: Central Americans precariously hop trains to travel across Mexico. Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Arriola / Amnesty International

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