Fr Alejandro Solalinde
A priest who has devoted his life to helping migrant workers in Mexico, Father Alejandro Solalinde, has been forced to leave the country temporarily after receiving death threats.
Fr Solalinde, coordinator of Social Pastoral Work for Human Mobility in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, and founder of the Hermanos en el Camino Migrant Shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, received six death threats in the past two months because of his work in defense of the human rights of migrants. On 16 May, Father Solalinde left Mexico in order to protect his life and safety, while efforts are made to clarify conditions for his security.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned the threats against Fr Solalinde and has granted him 'precautionary measures'.
In April 2010, the IACHR granted 'precautionary measures' to protect the life and safety of Fr Solalinde, David Álvarez, Areli Palomo, Mario Calderón, Norma Araceli Doblado, and others working or located in the Hermanos en el Camino Migrant Shelter, after they had been subjected to acts of intimidation; and after Father Solalinde, in February 2010, had been detained and held at gunpoint by the Federal Police when he went to the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Oaxaca state to discuss investigations into the alleged murder of three migrants.
The Inter-American Commission said in a statement today that it "considers it a matter of extreme gravity that the Mexican State has not taken effective protection measures to prevent Father Solalinde from being forced to leave the country, especially in view of the precautionary measures it granted, which are still in effect, and the threats and harassment directed against him and the staff of the Hermanos en el Camino Migrant Shelter.
"The IACHR recalls that it is the State’s obligation to take the initiative to investigate those threats and to punish those responsible for masterminding them and carrying them out. In this connection, the IACHR urges the State to take immediately all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, the personal integrity, and the safety of the beneficiaries of these precautionary measures, as well as of migrants transiting through Mexico who may be at risk. Likewise, the IACHR urges the State of Mexico to adopt urgently all effective protection measures to enable Father Alejandro Solalinde to return to the country and continue carrying out his work in defense of the human rights of migrants in safety."
Commission member Felipe González, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, said that in July and August, 2011: “during the visit to Mexico of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants, the IACHR had the opportunity to see the main work carried out by Fr Solalinde and staff of the Hermanos en el Camino Migrant Shelter in defending the human rights of thousands of migrants.
"At that time, they were already beneficiaries of the Commission’s precautionary measures and, even so, Fr Solalinde was still the target of threats and acts of harassment, which, we have been informed, have intensified to the extent that they forced his departure from the country. This situation has a direct impact on the protection of the rights of the migrants who go to this shelter, as well as a frightening impact on other defenders of the human rights of migrants in Mexico. It is of paramount importance that Mexico adopt and implement all necessary measures to guarantee conditions of safety for migrants who are at risk as well as for human rights defenders to allow them to continue their work and, in particular, to allow Father Solalinde to return and continue his work.”
In the Preliminary Observations made by the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants after the 2011 visit to Mexico, the Rapporteurship underscored “the important work being conducted by civil society and individuals in providing shelter, food, potable water, and other services to migrants in transit through Mexican territory. The shelters provide safety, food, and information to thousands of people transiting through Mexico every year. These individuals and organizations perform a highly valuable social function, one in which the State has been absent for many years.” Similarly, the Rapporteurship considered “of great importance the work carried out by defenders of the human rights of migrants, who continue their work despite the risks it entails,” and in this regard recommended to the State of Mexico that it “guarantee safe conditions for the defenders of the human rights of migrants.”
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
To see a film about the Hermanos en el Camino Migrant Shelter go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cecyXlH5tQ0