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Persistent Insecurity: Abuses against Central Americans in Mexico

(Washington, D.C.) November 21, 2013 — A report from Jesuit Refugee Service/USA notes that the flows of migrants from Central America toward the U.S. require special consideration both from a human rights perspective and because their vulnerability is intimately linked to continued regional insecurity. The report, Persistent Insecurity: Abuses against Central Americans in Mexico, includes specific recommendations to alleviate the abuses faced by migrants on their journey.

As they travel through Mexico, migrants are abused by organized crime syndicates, government officials and opportunistic criminals.

"Migrants are human beings who deserve dignity and respect," said Mary Small, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Assistant Director of Policy and a co-author of the report. "Our communities and our governments can take steps to make sure these tragedies stop, whether it is migrants drowning in the Mediterranean or migrants being tortured and killed in Mexico."

The abuses suffered by thousands of migrants each year include kidnapping, extortion, robbery, and assault. As part of a strategy to diversify their sources of income, organized crime factions target migrants as particularly vulnerable victims who can be exploited. From the kidnapping of migrants alone, criminal groups generated an estimated $25 million between September of 2008 and February of 2009. This income is then fed back into the criminal infrastructure, strengthening its ability to commit violence against both Mexicans and migrants, and further destabilizing regional security. 

"Migration is really a regional issue. I think historically we have done a poor job of seeing how our security, economic, trade and migration policies all interact with each other, so understanding this as a regional issue is hugely important," said Small. "Americans should care about the stability of Mexico both in terms of their government and the strength of organized crime within the country."

In 2012, Mexican authorities reported a nearly 35 percent increase in apprehensions of Central Americans within Mexico. Advocates suspect that migration has increased so dramatically because of the rise in violence in Central America. In 2012, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, became the most violent city in the world with 169 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.

"When we have better information at a very detailed level we can design better programs and better policies to help people," said Small.

The report, co-authored by Joanna Foote and Mary Small of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, is available to be read or downloaded on our Research Publications page, or you can download the PDF by clicking here. A Spanish translation of the report is also available.