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The Case of Mexico

Over the last decade, Mexico has undergone fundamental changes in terms of migratory flows and migration policies. Historically known as one of the countries in the world with the highest rates of emigrants itself, Mexico has become an important transit country for migration flows to the United States of America. Most migrants come from Central America, but also from various Caribbean and South American countries and most recently from African and Asian countries. Accordingly, in 2014, for the first time since records began, apprehensions of illegalized migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras at the US-Mexican border outpaced apprehensions from Mexico.

These tendencies became highly visible to the broader public in 2014 with the rapid surge of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (also known as the Northern Triangle) seeking entrance to the United States. Four years later, from October 2018 onward, the caravanas de migrantes (migrant caravans) shed light on the ongoing exodus from these Central American countries, where insufficient employment opportunities and the lack of public security, combined with organized violence, have fueled emigration through Mexico to the United States. Over the last ten years, more and more Central American citizens have had to flee their home countries due to high homicide rates, gang activities and armed violence. Additionally, women and people from the LGBTIQ community often experience gender-based violence in their countries of origin. As the migrant caravans showed, no longer only young men decide to migrate, but also, in increasing numbers, women and whole families make their way up north. It is difficult to estimate the number of migrants that cross Mexico each year to reach the US. In July 2019, the National Migration Institute (INM) of Mexico announced a historic high with an estimation of 460.000 undocumented migrants entering the country, while official apprehension statistics of the INM show an decrease at the end of the year due to tightened controls on the Mexican southern border.

During their journey through Mexico, the migrant population, especially the illegalized population, is at constant risk of becoming victim of a wide range of forms of violence. They may experience robberies, assault, discrimination by Mexican nationals and abuse by government officials. Moreover, criminal actors as drug cartels and gangs, who in some regions of the country exert total territorial control and tend to work closely with government agents, often exploit migrants' vulnerability in order to kidnap, extort or force them into prostitution, unpaid work, and to smuggle drugs or weapons. Finally, in the case of migrants fleeing from persecution by a gang, the transnational networks of their persecutors and the lack of migrant protection policies often make it easy to locate the migrants in Mexico as well.

The most recent tendency demonstrates that because of the further toughening of US immigration policy and the Mexican government’s cooperation in it, Mexico is increasingly becoming an immigration country for those migrants hindered to go further north and cross the border to the United States. According to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), compared to the entire year of 2018 with almost 30.000 applications, by the end of 2019 the numbers of asylum applications in Mexico have more than doubled to over 66.000 applications.