IDC stood together with over 200 organizations calling for a reversal of the Mexican government’s decision to deny civil society organizations access to immigration detention centers across the country. The new policy decision, shared in a government public notification in late January, came on the heels of publicized reports by migrant advocates of repeated difficulties in entering the most populated detention centers on the country’s southern border and in Mexico City, and an open letter from Amnesty International urging that the National Migration Institute (INM) guarantee access of civil society organizations to detained migrants and refugees.


This issue has become more pressing in recent weeks within the context of militarized use of force by the Mexican National Guard at entry points on the southern border and rising concern about the expansion in the use of immigration detention in Mexico’s strengthened containment and migration control policy towards Central Americans hoping to enter and transit Mexican territory in mass caravans. For the people moving in the caravan this January, all roads led to being deprived of their liberty – whether they expressed their intention to apply for asylum or a humanitarian visa, or whether they took up the government’s offer to stay and work in Mexico’s southern states, they were taken into detention.


Release from detention amidst fast-track deportation policies and procedures, depends almost always and primarily on access to legal advice, knowing your rights and having someone on the outside advocating for you. There is currently no information publicly available as to how many of those detained have been released or able to continue their immigration procedures for asylum, or humanitarian or visitors´ visas in freedom.


On January 30th, advocates held a press conference urging the Mexican government to restart programmed visits and eliminate the new obstacles facing NGOs who have requested permission to enter the detention centers. The message they sent is that it is not acceptable to violate the rights to access of information, access to justice and due process of migrants and refugees subject to international protection for even one day. They also urged the government to accept the request made by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to visit the immigration detention centers currently holding thousands of people on Mexico’s southern border.


CIvil society organizations held a press conference urging the Mexican government to restart programmed visits and eliminate the new obstacles facing NGOs who have requested permission to enter the detention centers.


Media statements made by IDC members Alejandra Macías Delgadillo, director of Asylum Access Mexico and Elba Coria Márquez, director of the Ibero University´s Refugee Law Clinic, highlight the risks associated with prohibiting detained persons from accessing legal defense, whether in asylum claims or to monitor due process in detention and deportation procedures. These risks are even greater in the absence of adequate registration, screening and individualized interviews, and effective procedures to identify protection needs in today´s detain and deport mechanisms.


Interview to Elba Coria Márquez, Director of the Ibero University’s Refugee Law Clinic, about the situation (Spanish).

Finally, several agreements were reached in an unprecedented meeting held with INM commissioner and the National Discrimination Commission (CONAPRED), including revocation of the policy made only days earlier to suspend civil society monitoring of immigration detention.


Immigration detention in Mexico in many ways is similar to the penitentiary model and represents significant expenditure of public funds, as outlined in a 2019 analysis of the immigration detention system carried out by AsiLegal, Fundar and Sin Fronteras. The systematic violation of rights of detained persons has been documented in over 15 years of immigration detention center monitoring reporting by Mexican civil society. In this light, IDC supports efforts to guarantee systematic civil society monitoring of conditions of detention and the exercise of right to information and legal defense of detained migrants and refugees.


In this respect, IDC has made available a Monitoring Manual, produced jointly with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). It is a step-by-step guide for anyone or any institution carrying out immigration detention visits. It can also be used as a checklist for authorities, detention center staff and journalists on the standards that need to be applied when asylum-seekers and migrants are detained.