Nearly 50,000 migrants have died in Mexico on the way to the US since 2007

For thousands of migrants, “Welcome to Mexico” is a death sentence.
For thousands of migrants, “Welcome to Mexico” is a death sentence.
Image: Reuters/Jorge Lopez
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The road to the US can be a dangerous one—especially when that road runs through Mexico.

More than 47,000 migrants (link in Spanish) have died while attempting to cross through Mexico to the US over the past six years, according to estimates by the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI) in Mexico. The study, which was reportedly conducted by a team of visiting Argentine forensic anthropologists, also found that another nearly 9,000 migrants have been killed, but have yet to be identified.

There are no official numbers to pit IMUMI’s estimates against, since pinning down even the total number of migrants—many of whom traverse the country illegally—let alone the number who have perished, is difficult, if not impossible. Some 500,000 Central Americans (pdf, p. 121) are believed to be in transit each year, 100,000 of whom end up being deported.

The deaths reported by IMUMI, however, are almost certainly happening before migrants make it to the US-Mexico border. Some 2,300 people have died crossing the border in the past six years, according to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy (pdf p. 1).

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Instead, Mexico’s alarming homicide rate is the likeliest culprit. Nearly 30,000 people were murdered in Mexico last year—more than twice the number in China, and nearly twice the number in the US.

Image for article titled Nearly 50,000 migrants have died in Mexico on the way to the US since 2007

The country’s violent drug trade, which is believed to be responsible for most of its homicide cases, makes it difficult to track down perpetrators. A whopping 98% of murders in Mexico remain unsolved from last year. Many of thousands of migrant deaths are believed to have been tied to the country’s drug cartels, which are suspected of trafficking, torturing, extorting, and forcefully employing migrants.

A separate study in 2012 estimated that 70,000 migrants had disappeared in Mexico in the previous five years. According to official estimates, over 100,000 people were kidnapped in the country last year, with almost all those cases going unreported.

Mexican authorities have been widely criticized for failing to address the dangers migrants face in the country. Mexican churches, among others, have taken it upon themselves to help Central and South American migrants traverse the country’s dangers by setting up shelters along popular migrant paths. One such shelter, called Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers on the Road) houses and feeds some 500 migrants every night.