Migrants en route to the U.S. trafficked in Mexico

Freedom United is an organisation dedicated to ending human trafficking and modern slavery. In February this year we received the following report from Freedom United outlining the difficulties faced by (mostly) Central America migrants trying to make their way to the United States. We are grateful to Freedom United for permission to reproduce their short report here.


Key words: migration; Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF); asylum processing; kidnapping; sexual violence; Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP); human rights.

13 February, 2020

Medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has reported that migrants from Central America are being “treated as if they aren’t really people” as a staggeringly high number are being kidnapped, raped and trafficked in Mexico.

This comes during a U.S. government crackdown to limit the number of migrants entering the country.

President Donald Trump has threatened to put tariffs on its imports into Mexico, pressuring its neighbour to increase its efforts to stop migrants reaching the U.S. border.

Most migrants from Central America fleeing their home countries as a result of violence or poverty hope to reach safety in the United States where they may have support networks.

Instead, their journey may come to an end in Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo city. According to MSF, nearly 80% of migrants treated in Nuevo Laredo in the first nine months of 2019 were victims of kidnapping or other forms of violence.

Mexico coordinator for MSF, Sergio Martín, said that “they’ve suffered violence … and what they find on their journey is more violence.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

“In September, 18 of 41 patients in Nuevo Laredo who had been sent back to Mexico to wait for U.S. asylum processing told MSF they had recently been kidnapped.

“We think that as a direct result of many of these policies there are people who are suffering more violence,” said Martín.

“It’s easier for them to fall into human trafficking networks or into extortion networks, and no one look for them.”

MSF found 78% of almost 3,700 patients in Mexico who sought mental health care in 2018 and 2019 showed signs of exposure to violence, including assault, sexual violence and torture.

Some patients said they had been kidnapped in Mexico for long periods for forced labour, sexual exploitation or recruitment to work for criminal groups.

Almost one in four female migrants told MSF they had experienced sexual violence on their journeys.”

Mexico’s National Guard has been deployed to prevent migrants crossing the border into the U.S. whilst also increasing numbers of detentions and deportations.

To date, the U.S. has sent 57,000 non-Mexican migrants to Mexico as they await their U.S. asylum hearings whilst also restricting asylum criteria and reducing the number of claims being received at each U.S. port of entry.

The Migrant Protection Protocol, otherwise known as MPP, is the U.S. programme that aims to keep asylum seekers in Mexico with the support of the Mexican government.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the “MPP is one of the most important and effective tools we have implemented to confront the crisis on the border and we will continue to strengthen and expand.”

While Mexico’s immigration authority and interior ministry did not comment immediately, President Andres Manuel López Obrador expressed his desire for enforcing immigration laws as long as migrants’ human rights are respected.