Mexico City – Mexico should grant "temporary permits" to Central Americans passing through the country on their way to the United States to reduce attacks on them, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rapporteur for migrant workers and their families Felipe Gonzalez said.
"In light of the lack of security, it is necessary to take an action of this type," the official said during a press conference Tuesday at which he evaluated his visit to Mexico.
"The conditions and installations at immigration stations" should be improved since they have a "certain appearance of prisons," Gonzalez, who began his visit to Mexico on July 25, said.
Non-governmental organizations should also be allowed to play a larger role in the immigration system, including providing shelters for migrants, the human rights rapporteur said.
"Immediate action is needed to protect the lives of migrants," Gonzalez said, adding that "alternative mechanisms to detention" should be sought by Mexican officials.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, is an organ of the Organization of American States.
Mexico is living in a "situation of duality" because legal advances have been made in some areas, but the country is dealing with "a dramatic migratory reality," Gonzalez said.
"The Rapporteurs Office for Migrants of the IACHR takes note of the recent reforms implemented by the state in the legislative and administrative areas to provide better protection for the human rights of undocumented (migrants)" and recognizes Mexico's commitment to these efforts, the human rights official said.
The office, however, "expresses its deep concern about the serious security situation that both foreign and Mexican migrants are living in," Gonzalez said.
The IACHR official toured Mexico, meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations, officials, migrants and migrants' relatives.
The meetings shed light on detentions, violence and sexual aggression against women, as well as numerous cases of extortion and people trafficking over the past 10 years, Gonzalez said.
About 20,000 migrants are kidnapped each year in Mexico, with about $50 million in ransom paid to criminal organizations that often work with officials, Gonzalez said, citing information provided by activists.
At least 11,333 migrants, the majority of them from Central America, were kidnapped in Mexico between April and September 2010, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, said in a report released in February.
Thousands of migrants, both Mexicans and foreigners, try to enter the United States each year via land routes from Mexico.
The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.
Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say.
An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the dangerous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.
Central American migrants follow a long route that takes them into Chiapas state, which is on the border with Guatemala, walking part of the way or riding aboard freight trains, buses and cargo trucks.
The flow of migrants has increased markedly in the northern and northeastern parts of Mexico since U.S. officials increased security along the border in the northwestern part of the country.