TEGUCIGALPA – The disappearance of US-bound Central American migrants is an oft-ignored problem that requires closer coordination among regional government to learn its true scope, an expert said.
In remarks to EFE coinciding with the International Day of the Disappeared, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ coordinator for missing persons covering Mexico, Central America and Cuba, Olivier Dubois, said missing migrants were a phenomenon that garners little attention because governments are focused on security and migration control.
When migrants from Central America’s violence- and crime-ridden Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) disappear or die during their perilous bid to reach the US, searching or identifying these people is not a priority, he said.
Dubois said he was unaware of the exact number of missing Central Americans due to a lack of reliable records, but he estimated that around 6,000 people had disappeared over the past 15 years.
The Swiss national stressed the need for countries of origin, transit and destination to “unify” their reports of missing and dead migrants with a view to assessing the real size of the problem.
Migrants experience violence at home that forces them to abandon their countries of origin and then become victimized by people traffickers, known as coyotes, while en route to the US, the expert said.
Mary Martinez, a 52-year-old Honduran woman, has sought help from governments and humanitarian organizations in locating the whereabouts of her son, Marco Amador, who disappeared in March 2013 after bidding farewell to his wife and 9-year-old daughter and setting off in search of greater economic opportunity in the US.
“Seeing him again is my hope. If I had wings to go look for him, I would. But since I don’t, I stay here asking God for consolation and for the strength to keep going,” she told EFE.
Like her son, thousands of other Central American migrants leave their homelands on a northward journey through Mexico, many of whom must hop onto moving trains and contend with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials in trying to reach their destination.
Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say.