Remembering invisible victims on 'International Migrants Day'

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The Independent US

Few of the Central American migrants looking to escape to the United States are prepared for the horrors they will endure along the way. Entering Mexico through one of its border states (most often Chiapas or Tabasco), they face a constant threat of persecution, and, at present, lack even the most basic of human rights.

Beatings, abduction, sexual assault, and murder are routinely committed by criminal gangs; most worryingly, there is also evidence of some complicity and involvement by Mexican officials. The prevalence of Los Zetas; an organisation made up of former federal, state, and local police officers, is a further menace faced. The notorious drug cartel has been known to kidnap and torture migrants, blackmailing families for their release.

Extremely vulnerable, Central American migrants slip into anonymity, and receive much less attention than is necessary. Perpetrators of violence are very rarely held to account.

Photographer Ricardo Ramírez Arriola followed these migrants along their journey, candidly discovering the horrors they endure. His images relay a sobering narrative; forced to leave their homes to support thier starving families, migrants must cling to freight trains for bouts in excess of ten hours, and in constant fear of being thrown onto the tracks by gangs demanding payment. His pictures, along with others, are to be displayed as part of a new exhibition.

Opening in Mexico City in March 2010, 'Invisible Victims' is an exhibition documenting this desperate journey to "el norte". By showing the abuses that undocumented migrants routinely face, humanitarian workers hope to bring to light these atrocities.

18 December is the United Nations International Migrants day, and Amnesty International is marking the date by calling on governments globally to ensure that the human rights of migrants are protected and promoted.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Amnesty International is to launch a new campaign focusing on the plight of Central American migrants. The project's primary aim is to draw attention to the abuses that they face, and to highlight the state's failure to prevent, halt or punish these atrocities.

Prejudice and a lack of understanding lead many Mexicans to believe that these migrants pose a threat. It is a belief that the many who aid in the migrants actively look to dispel. While moving north, migrants are occasionally and temporarily provided with humanitarian assistance by families who live en route. Priests and nuns also run a chain of shelters; providing food, lodging, and a brief relief from exhaustion, and the dangers they face. Unfortunately, many of those who provide aid are accused of human trafficking, and are subject to harassment and attacks.

The Amnesty International campaign aims to call for a greater recognition of the grave dangers facing all migrants, an improvement in the State’s duty of care, and to demand policy changes. Working to support the people who provide legal advice and humanitarian assistance to migrants, Amnesty International hopes that a systematic change will lead to a better redress for victims of abuse.