HRF Reports Escalating Human Rights Abuses Against Asylum Seekers Returned to Mexico

Human Rights First Releases New Report on Escalating Human Rights Abuses Against Asylum Seekers Returned to Mexico by the Trump Administration

 Forced returns continue under “Remain in Mexico” policy despite reports of kidnappings and violence

Washington, D.C. – People seeking asylum from Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, among other countries continue to be kidnaped, tortured, raped and violently attacked while forced by the Trump Administration to remain in Mexico for the U.S. to hear their asylum cases. Today Human Rights First released “Human Rights Fiasco: The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Asylum Returns Continue,” a report detailing the horrific violence that asylum seekers face after being returned to Mexico under the cruel and illegal Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Trump administration officials continue to knowingly send people who have asked for refugee protection to be kidnapped, exploited, beaten, raped and even killed in Mexico,” said Human Rights First’s Kennji Kizuka. “The extensive and escalating public accounts of kidnappings and attacks on asylum seekers turned back to remain in Mexico are highly alarming. What’s worse is that many more men, women and children have certainly suffered attacks, the numbers we have are just cases that have been reported. Despite overwhelming evidence that these forced returns are a human rights catastrophe, Trump administration and DHS officials continue to implement, expand and defend their illegal and dangerous returns.”

Among its key findings, Human Rights Fiasco details that:

  • There are at least 636 publicly reported cases of kidnapping, rape, torture, assault, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants returned to Mexico under MPP—likely only the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of returnees haven’t been interviewed by researchers or journalists;
  • Among these reports are at least 138 reports of kidnappings or attempted kidnappings under MPP are of children;
  • Despite claims by Trump Administration officials that shelters in Mexico are safe and protected, asylum seekers returned to Mexico have been targeted in these very shelters as well as immediately after DHS returns them, while going to and from U.S. MPP hearings, and while searching for shelter, food, and work;
  • The MPP fear screening process is a sham with interviews that have become increasingly cursory and adversarial resulting in the return of vulnerable and victimized asylum seekers to new dangers;
  • Asylum seekers who have missed MPP court hearings because they were kidnapped at the time have been ordered deported; and,
  • DHS is returning to Mexico some of the very few refugees actually granted asylum protection by U.S. immigration judges in MPP hearings, including Cubans and Venezuelans who are currently stranded in some of the most notoriously dangerous areas of Mexico.

“Until this policy is ended or struck down, people will continue to suffer and Trump Administration officials cannot evade responsibility for these mass human rights abuses and suffering,” Kizuka added.

Human Rights First’s count of public reports of attacks on asylum seekers also appears in the running database launched by Human Rights First and its partners, tracking kidnappings, attacks and other violence against asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico. Human Rights First’s database and it’s larger effort to document abuses and violence under MPP is intended to serve as a record of the harm done and a resource to investigators, journalists and others in need of information about the scope and scale of human rights abuses inflicted under these policies. The website provides lists of human rights reports, investigations, and lawsuits relating to the Trump Administration’s forced returns. This is the fourth report that Human Rights First has issued documenting the dangers that asylum seekers are sent to face while waiting in Mexico, and the number of public reports of kidnappings and attacks on asylum seekers has risen sharply from 110 public reports in August and 340 in October to more than 600 in December.

If you are interested in learning more about Human Rights First’s efforts to document violence against migrants under MPP, please visit


Published on December 5, 2019


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