International Migration Research Centre

Document Type

Policy Points

Publication Date



Department of Health Studies


Every year tens of thousands of irregular migrants from Central America cross Mexico’s southern border and attempt to make the 1,000-mile northbound trek to the United States. These migrants make the journey despite increasing threats of violence from organized criminal gangs, corrupt police and security forces members, and private citizens. An investigation by Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights in 2010 found that more than 11,000 irregular migrants were kidnapped nation-wide, with an unknown number violently assaulted and raped. In an urgent action report issued on July 27, 2012, Amnesty International stated that irregular migrants, and the volunteers who assist them, are at grave risk of extortion, sexual assault, kidnapping, torture and murder.

This backgrounder summarizes the risks faced by irregular migrants and humanitarian workers in Mexico based on various reports. Utilizing the documentation provided by Casa del Migrante, a migrant shelter in Saltillo, Mexico, this backgrounder explains the security threats to migrants, migrant shelters and shelter workers. Recommendations are proposed on pages 3 and 4, aimed at Federal, State, Municipal and International levels of government.