By Charlotte Philips of Amnesty International’s Refugees and Migrants Rights team
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in the quiet neighbourhood of Zona Rosa in Mexico City. Sarah, (our campaigner on Mexico) and I have just stopped to reflect on what has so far been a whirlwind trip.
It all started at the crack of dawn six days ago when we boarded a packed flight from London to Mexico City. Our purpose? To launch The Invisibles, a new film in four parts documenting the journey of Central American migrants travelling through Mexico and the brutal reality of life on the move.
Our hope? to shine a light on what has largely remained an invisible issue and highlight the Mexican government’s obligation to prevent and punish these abuses, whether perpetrated by criminal gangs or their own officials.
Hollywood actor Gael Garcia Bernal, (Motorcycle Diaries, Amores Perros) co- directed the film with director Marc Silver and also appears in it. As a socially-minded Mexican who has previously worked on migrant issues, Gael was just as excited about making the film as we were, and it took little persuasion to get him on board.
The idea for the film came about after several research trips to Southern Mexico to document the human rights abuses of thousands of irregular migrants who travel through Mexico every year.
Our team spent hours interviewing migrants who told us what was happening to people on their way to the US: how they had been prayed on by criminal gangs and sometimes public officials and how the gangs were killing, raping and kidnapping migrants. The stories were horrifying but the people we spoke to were determined to reach the US. We decided we had to find a way to draw the world’s attention to this human rights crisis.
The Invisibles launch was timed to coincide with the Global Forum on Migration and Development (otherwise know as the GFMD), an important annual meeting of governments and civil society to discuss issues around migration.
This year the GFMD is taking place in Mexico, creating the perfect opportunity for us to bring the issue to the attention of governments from around the world. Most importantly, it gives us a chance to engage with the Mexican government directly.
The first screening of The Invisibles took place at the beautiful Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City on Thursday
Around 200 people attended the screening including members of NGOs and community organizations and human rights defenders.
Padre Solalinde, an activist who appears in the film and who runs a migrant shelter in Southern Mexico, was on hand to speak about the issues.
Reactions from the audience were extremely positive, with a number of comments that the films were being instrumental in the struggle to ensure that migrant voices are heard.
The Invisibles’ public launch will be at the Global Forum on Tuesday. Gael will be flying in for the screening where he will be speaking directly to governments about this important issue.