Mexican human rights groups have called for a full investigation into the murder of two Honduran teenagers in the city of Tijuana earlier this week. The two teenagers, aged 16 and 17, were reportedly a part of the migrant caravan that is travelling through Mexico to the U.S border.
The case has exposed how the woefully inadequate system for processing migrants and asylum seekers is placing those most vulnerable at risk. The two teenagers arrived three weeks ago at one of the shelters in which Mexican law stipulates unaccompanied minors should be housed; their bodies were found earlier this week not far from the shelter in Tijuana. Police confirmed they had been strangled and stabbed to death. Honduras’ Foreign Ministry also confirmed that a third individual had escaped the situation, but had sustained ‘severe injuries’. On Wednesday, police confirmed that at least three people had been arrested in connection with the murders.
Uriel Gonzalez is the director of the migrant youth shelter in the Mexican border city of Tijuana where the two teenagers had stayed. Speaking to Al-Jazeera, he said that the day that they had left the shelter, they had ignored the well-established policy of notifying volunteers that they were intending to leave for a short while. Gonzalez added, however, that his shelter operates an open-door policy so that its residents can travel to ports of entry where they can petition for asylum. Concluding his remarks, Gonzalez said that ‘it’s a very painful time for everyone here.’
Jaya Ramji-Nogales, an expert on asylum adjudication at Temple University, told Al-Jazeera that the wait that asylum seekers are forced to undergo at the US border is harming ‘vulnerable children’. In direct reference to the two teenagers, Ramji-Nogales speculated that ‘these unaccompanied minors, presumably, had they made it to the border, would have presented themselves and asked for some kind of protection.’ They were, however, never to get that chance.
The distressing treatment of migrants and asylum seekers under the Donald Trump-led U.S administration has long been plain to see, but the young age of the two victims in this case has rendered the situation particularly shocking. Despite the ostensible special protections that are offered to unaccompanied minors under U.S immigration law, the murder of these Honduran teenagers illustrates the lack of consideration that is really behind the legislation. In response to the death of the two young teenagers, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters that Mexico’s migration policy needed to be firmly rooted in ‘the defence and protection of human rights’.
Al-Jazeera has analysed this incident in relation to the US government’s policy of ‘metering’, which limits the number of asylum requests that are able to be filed each day. This has led to a bottleneck at the U.S-Mexico border, as asylum-seekers wait until their petition can be heard. Although the U.S border officials have denied having such purpose, the case of the two teenagers murdered this week highlights how a tragically inadequate immigration system is only serving to buttress the risks, dangers and threats that migrants are facing on their journeys.
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