Between February and April 2022, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) interviewed more than one hundred people, including government officials, UN and NGO workers, shelter employees, and most importantly, migrants, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPS) to understand the impacts of corruption along migration routes in Mexico. The results were striking.
Corruption impacts migrants and IDPs at all points along their journey: it is a root cause of displacement, and is present from the moment migrants attempt to enter Mexico throughout their journey within and across the country. Corruption impacts migrants in different ways, from solicitation of petit bribes to complex and hugely profitable kidnapping-for-ransom schemes involving collusion between state actors and organized criminal groups.
Nearly every subject interviewed identified corruption as a serious challenge to migrants accessing their rights in Mexico, and many noted how corruption has a compounding effect: depleting migrants’ resources and pushing them into more dangerous pathways, which then makes them more vulnerable to further acts of corruption.
Further, corruption permeates the justice system, creating creating feedback loops where corruption fuels impunity, which then fosters further corruption.
The chief findings of this study demonstrate:
- Restrictive, deterrence-based Mexican and US migration policies create conditions that facilitate corruption, by placing migrants in vulnerable situations in which bureaucrats and security forces have ample opportunity for extortion, coercion and solicitation of bribes. Irregular migration status increases vulnerability and impedes access to justice.
- The chief modalities of corruption include extortion/bribery, kidnapping, and exploitation within migrant detention centres.
- There is ample evidence of collusion between local and federal authorities and organized criminal groups in more sophisticated corruption schemes, including kidnapping rings and selling of migration documents.
- Although state institutions exist to address corruption, and some internal measures have resulted in the dismissal of corrupt officials, generally those who engage in corrupt acts enjoy complete impunity. This is due to the ineffectiveness of complaint mechanisms, widespread distrust and fear of authorities by migrants, and corruption within the organisms tasked with receiving complaints.
While the challenge of corruption is deep-seated in Mexico and will require significant investment and norm shifting to be addressed, this study recommends the following measures be taken to address the issues:
- Reduce the vulnerabilities of migrants and IDPs by investing in expanded humanitarian programming, reducing or eliminating migrant detention and other restrictions, and creating expanded and accessible legal pathways to regularization.
- Combat impunity and build trust in state systems by investing in access to justice programs, including better data collection and easier access to information, increased availability of human rights defenders and lawyers throughout the migration routes, and training and capacity strengthening of state institutions.
- Facilitate improved coordination between local and international civil society, IGOs, migrant groups, and federal, state and local governments.
- Improve access to reliable, accurate, and easily digestible information about migration options to prevent deception and the spreading of rumours that lead to victimization.