An estimated 500,000 people cross into Mexico every year. The majority making up this massive forced migration flow originate from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, known as the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA), one of the most violent regions in the world today.
Since 2012, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been providing medical and mental health care to tens of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing the NTCA’s extreme violence and traveling along the world’s largest migration corridor in Mexico. Through violence assessment surveys and medical and psychosocial consultations, MSF teams have witnessed and documented a pattern of violent displacement, persecution, sexual violence, and forced repatriation akin to the conditions found in the deadliest armed conflicts in the world today.
For millions of people from the NTCA region, trauma, fear, and horrific violence are dominant facets of daily life. Yet it is a reality that does not end with their forced flight to Mexico. Along the migration route from the NTCA, migrants and refugees are preyed upon by criminal organizations, sometimes with the tacit approval or complicity of national authorities, and subjected to violence and other abuses—abduction, theft, extortion, torture, and rape—that can leave them injured and traumatized.
Despite existing legal protections under Mexican law, they are systematically detained and deported. Nearly 98 percent of NTCA citizens were captured by immigration authorities in 2015, with devastating consequences on their physical and mental health.
The findings of this report, based on surveys and medical programmatic data from the past two years, come against the backdrop of heightened immigration enforcement by Mexico and the United States, including the use of detention and deportation. Such practices threaten to drive more refugees and migrants into the brutal hands of smugglers or criminal organizations.