Photo: Nick Wagner/Xinhua

XINHUA

The surge of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border underscores the need for a continentwide legal framework to protect migrant rights, Mexican immigration experts said Monday. Sept. 27.

At a seminar on the current Haitian migrant crisis, Alberto Hernandez, president of Mexico’s College of the Northern Border (Colef), which hosted the event, said designing and applying such a continentwide protection scheme presents a regional challenge, since many migrants fall into “a gray zone between refugees and voluntary economic migrants.”

“This has a continental dimension, involving several transit and destination countries,” said Hernandez, adding that existing regional protection tools, which “are not fully applied in terms of international refugee law,” also need to be assessed.

A political and legal evaluation would determine the relevance and applicability of these tools based on multilateral political agreements, which would perhaps prevent crises such as the ongoing one, Hernandez said.

On Sept. 19, Colef sent a research team to Ciudad Acuña in the Mexican state of Coahuila to follow up on the migratory crisis in the town that borders the U.S. town of Del Rio, Texas.

Monday’s seminar presented the first findings of that investigation, which, among other things, described the conditions migrants face on both sides of the border.

On the U.S. side, for example, where between14,000 and 15,000 people, mainly Haitians, were at one point camped under the Del Rio International Bridge, migrants lacked food and basic necessities, said Camilo Contreras, a Colef professor and researcher.

Authorities there blocked access to humanitarian aid, kept the press at bay, and subjected the camp to aerial and ground surveillance, all of which forced migrants to cross to the Mexican side to get food and basic necessities, Contreras said.

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