Reports of migrant kidnapping in Mexico have increased dramatically over a single year, a phenomenon that may be linked to increased migration from Central America, rising kidnapping rates in Mexico, or just better reporting.
There were 682 reported migrant kidnappings in 2014, an increase of 1000 percent from 2013, according to figures from Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM), which were obtained by Excelsior via a freedom of information act request.
Of those kidnapped, 365 were Hondurans, 200 Salvadorans, 100 Guatemalans and 17 Nicaraguans.
The numbers also show an increase in “other crimes” committed against migrants — including extortion and abuse — rising from 43 to 119.
However, there were just 29 migrants who were victims of human trafficking in 2013, according to the INM’s statistics.
InSight Crime Analysis
Ultimately, the explanation behind this huge increase in reported migrant kidnapping could well be a mix of the reasons described below.
Firstly, there is the matter of the huge spike in Central American migrants attempting to reach the United States in 2014. This rapid increase in migrants, many of whom were unaccompanied children or families and therefore even more vulnerable to criminal groups, died down almost as quickly as it shot up. If this was a factor, the number of migrant kidnappings can be expected to fall again in 2015.
The increase could also be related to broader changes within Mexico’s underworld. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in late 2012, overall kidnapping has increased by 52 percent, according to official statistics published by Animal Politico. The increase in migrant kidnapping may be part of the same pattern.
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The states most affected by kidnapping — Tamaulipas, Guerrero, and Michoacan — are the same ones that have seen an intense fragmentation of organized crime groups. As these criminal structures look to earn funds from other sources besides transnational drug trafficking, the increasingly independent local factions have turned to other crimes, including kidnapping to make up the shortfall in income.
It is also possible the increase is at least partly a result of better reporting and collating of statistics, especially as the INM has only maintained statistics on migrant kidnapping since 2012. This increased attention towards the problem may yet encourage state institutions to take the crime more seriously — and, crucially, result in more people reporting it.