The project is expected to launch in other Central American nations with large outflows of immigrants.
The Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil) said that the plan "Sembrando Vida" (Sowing Lives) launched by Mexico and El Salvador to stop migration outflow "seems superficial" and does not confront the thousands of people migrate to seek protection from violence.
Cejil’s Deputy Director for Central America and Mexico Marcela Martino expressed the NGO’s reservations that "this plan becomes one more measure to dissuade people from seeking protection," openly contradicting international human rights standards.
The President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) and the Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele launched a program Thursday dubbed the "Sembrando Vida Development Plan for Migration," which will bring the model of a successful reforestation project in Mexico to the Central American nation. It is estimated to cost US$30 million and could create 20,000 jobs that would encourage people to stay in their home country.
The program allows 50,000 hectares of land in El Salvador to be planted using agroforestry land management systems. Mexico considers this one of its actions aimed at stemming migration northward as part of its deal with the United States, who recently threatened to impose crippling sanctions on the country, potentially damaging its economy on the claim that the government wasn’t doing enough.
This plan adds to AMLO’s concession of sending of 6,000 Mexican National Guard troops to its southern border to contain the migration.
For Cejil, an NGO that provides expertise to the Organization of American States (OAS), the measure announced by Mexico and El Salvador "in particular in the plan" Sembrando Vida, " seem superficial and do not address many of the structural reasons for the migration," such as the "the lack of public safety, violence and corruption that the Salvadoran people face, as well as the inability of the state to protect its population," Martino said.
The lawyer also said that the "plan favors economic development based on free trade instead of focusing on respect for a minimum standard on human rights that are often violated by these kinds of development projects."
Cejil, who also consults for the United Nations (U.N) and the African Commission of Human Rights, emphasized that this plan by Mexico and El Salvador, and any other measure, "must take into consideration international responsibilities in the purview of the Mexican State.
"It is worrisome that this plan could become another measure discouraging people from seeking protection, just as the deployment of the National Guard to the southern border of Mexico has done.”
That resolution "puts the human rights of migrants at risk, undermines their right to leave their country, limits their ability to seek asylum, and endangers their integrity and their lives," Martino added.
In the face of such a plan, Cejil "calls for States in the region to continue working jointly (...) not only with each other and with international organizations but also with social aid groups and the migrant and refugee population."
If states took this advice, according to Ceji, they could "to respond to the situation of human mobility in accordance with international standards to guarantee the human rights of people in search of international protection".
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday that "Sembrado Vida" is "the most extensive cooperation program with El Salvador" Mexico has ever had, and that it is starting with funding of "more than 30 million direct transfers in a project that is looking at more than 100 million dollars ".
The reforestation program will be first implemented in El Salvador and then soon be extended to Honduras and Guatemala, two other countries where outflow migration has soared in recent months.
The Comprehensive Development Plan responds to the large scale migration effort known as the Migrant Caravan or Migrant Exodus that began in October 2018, in which mostly Central Americans traversed their own countries on foot, making their way north through Mexico to the United States where they hope to petition for asylum to escape poverty and violence.