Rather that acknowledge that growing numbers of Mexican refugee claimants might be fleeing to Canada for legitimate reasons, Stephen Harper has announced that the Mounties will train Mexican federal police to strengthen their efforts in the “war on drugs.” According to the Winnipeg Free Press: “The Mounties will offer tips on interviewing techniques for entry-level police; mid-level officers will learn about money-laundering, undercover tactics, and child exploitation; and senior officers will hear about crisis management, public relations and dealing with civilian leaders.”
It’s a cheap announcement: only 400,000 loonies have been allocated for this program, but it’s a useful one for Harper because it helps perpetuate the myth that Mexico is just like Canada — poorer, perhaps, but fundamentally democratic — and in no way a legitimate source of refugees.
However, it is no coincidence that refugee claims have grown at a time of escalating drug war violence and a marked increase in human rights violations by Mexican police and military forces.
According to the CBC, “Mexico is now the No. 1 source of refugee claims, with the number almost tripling to more than 9,400 since 2005 . . . The figure represents one-quarter of all claims made. About 90 per cent of the claims are rejected.”
In February 2009, Amnesty International reported that:
- Mexico has so far failed to explicitly recognize the status of international human rights treaties in its Constitution.
- The authorities have yet to hold anyone to account for the 100 killings and 700 enforced disappearances that took place between the 1960s and 1980s.
- Mexican federal, state and municipal police officers implicated in serious human rights violations, such as arbitrary detention, torture, rape and unlawful killings, particularly those committed during civil disturbances in San Salvador Atenco and Oaxaca City in 2006, have not been brought to justice.
- The military justice system continues to try cases of human rights violations despite international human rights standards insisting these should be tried in civilian courts.
- The number of reports of abuses such as arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, sexual violence and unlawful killings by security officials has increased during security operations to combat violent criminal gangs.
- Human rights defenders, particular those in rural areas, often face persecution and sometimes prolonged detention on the basis of fabricated or politically-motivated criminal charges.
- Indigenous and other marginalized communities sometimes face harassment for opposing development projects affecting their livelihoods.
- Irregular migrants in transit in Mexico routinely face ill-treatment by state officials as well as sexual and other violence at the hands of criminal gangs.
- Despite advances in legislation to protect women from violence, implementation is weak. Reporting, prosecution and conviction rates for those responsible for domestic violence, rape and even killings of women remain extremely low. Two years after the adoption of the 2007 General Law to prevent violence against women, two states have not even introduced legislation to enforce it.
- Poverty and marginalization continue to deprive many rural communities, particularly indigenous peoples, of the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to development, in accordance with their own needs and interests.
You can get the entire report here.
It sounds to me like there are plenty of good reasons why someone might claim to be a Mexican refugee.
Meanwhile, education is a 2-way street. I wonder what the Federales will teach our taser-wielding Mounties.
Armed men surround the mainly Mixtec community of Santo Domingo Ixcatlan, Oaxaca on December 3, 2008. The attackers were working for a local political boss who stood to profit from the sale of communal lands. For months, the group threatened those who opposed the sale and killed three of them in April 2008. Photo credit: Private/Amnesty International. Read more.
Speaking at the University of Southern California in April 2009, Mexican senator and human rights activist Rosario Ibarra presents a lecture on forced disappearances (the state’s covert persecution, apprehension and execution of individuals for political reasons) in Mexico, and on her work to promote human rights and freedom.