According to a NYT article published yesterday, Thailand has joined the notorious rank of countries that send migrants back without considering if and how they can get home.
In the past month, the Thai authorities have detained as many as 1,000 boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar and sent them back out to sea in boats without engines, human rights groups say. At least 300 people are reported to be missing at sea.
Their treatment of the migrants is atrocious, especially considering their target, “the ethnic Rohingya minority, mostly stateless people who live in a cycle of poverty, repression, escape, capture and exploitation.” But Thailand, as you might know, is not the only deporting country or the most aggressive. Europe and the US, the biggest recipients of migrants, have been forcing people back for a while.
In the border town where I live, the unmarked vans pull up right to customs. The door opens and out come a group of probably Mexicans and Central Americans with heads hung low and US government-issued bookbags with what I think are nametags (though I’ve never gotten close enough to see). With their heads hung low, the immigrants are escorted through the turnstile doors into Mexico. That is where their deportation ends. The problem of course, well one of the many problems with this system, is that many of the people deported to these border towns are not actually from them, and having spent all of their money to get to the US in the first place (coyotes cost thousands of dollars), they lack the means to get back to the Oaxacas, Guerreros, and Guatemalas where they’re from. So what happens? Along the border it’s common knowledge that people who get deported often never make it back to their families. So they stay along the border. In the best case scenario, they keep trying to cross. There are actually shelters that specifically house cross attempters and deportees. In the worst case scenario, desperate for money and feeling no ties or obligations to border communities where they’re not from, they get caught up in the “easy” money of border-related industries. It is believed that a proportion (nobody knows how many) of the narcos’ sicarios (henchmen) are deportees. Further south, deportees, especially those who served jail time in the US and were educated in the tricks of the organized violence trade, become players in the gangs ripping Central American societies.
What seems like a quick fix on this side of the border has huge repercussions for the people deported and the communities that they return to. For some background on deportation to the US border, check out this article from NPR. It’s actually part of a series on the border and border-related violence, which I highly recommend.
Another NYT article on deportations by US hospitals, a tragedy if I ever heard one.