Human rights groups are pleading with Mexico's top health official to pressure the release of detained migrants at risk of contracting COVID-19

"Shamefully, the Mexican government has willingly cooperated with the United States in the implementation of policies that harm and endanger migrants and asylum-seekers," Charanya Krishnaswami, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, told Business Insider.

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  • Amnesty International is now appealing to Mexico's top doctor in charge of the COVID-19 response, asking him to make an appeal for the release of detained migrants
  • The majority of Mexico's detained migrant population cannot be repatriated due to travel restrictions imposed in Honduras and El Salvador.
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Thousands of migrants who cannot be deported are sitting in Mexican detention centers where they are at risk of infection from the novel coronavirus.

Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador came to power in 2018 pledging to offer Central American migrants economic opportunity amid a new era of progressive governance.

However, critics say his government has placed them at unnecessary risk, which is forcing others to take legal action on their behalf.

"Shamefully, the Mexican government has willingly cooperated with the United States in the implementation of policies that harm and endanger migrants and asylum-seekers," Charanya Krishnaswami, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, told Business Insider.

With the Trump administration closing the door to migrants, Krishnaswami said thousands are now at risk of being held in Mexico, during a period of extreme contagion, "in overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe conditions in Mexican detention centers."

On April 18, a Mexico City district judge ordered the government to release all migrants over the age of 60, as well as those who are disabled or suffer from a compromised immune system, citing the risk posed by COVID-19.

Human rights groups are now appealing to Mexico's top doctor in charge of the pandemic response to go a big step further.

In an open letter to be delivered April 23 to Dr. Hugo Lpez-Gatell Ramrez, Mexico's undersecretary of prevention and the promotion of health, Amnesty requests a public statement "asking that all persons in migration detention be released immediately."

"Such a measure should be accompanied by a humanitarian response that includes, among other things, access to housing and health services," states the letter, signed by Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty's director for the Americas.

On March 31, an official with the Mexican National Migration Institute told Human Rights Watch that a majority of the 4,000 people held in the country's migrant detention system cannot even be deported thanks to pandemic-related travel restrictions in Honduras and El Salvador.

HRW's Americas director, Jos Miguel Vivanco, has likewise called on Mexican authorities to "immediately release or find alternatives to detention for at least the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic for any migrants it cannot repatriate."

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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