Violence, extortion and kidnapping affect migrant women and adolescents in Mexico

16 May 2024

Adolescent girls and women on the move are subject to extortion, kidnapping, and violence in Mexico according to a Plan International study, "Adolescent Girls in Crisis: Impact of Migration Policies in Ciudad Juarez", citing lack of knowledge of migrant rights and policies as 1 main reason.

A girl's face in shadow to hide her identity.
Lack of knowledge of their migrant rights is putting adolescent girls at further risk. © Plan International

Testimonies were collected from 60 migrant women and girls in the northern Mexican cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, who had travelled from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela. More than half (53%) of the women and girls surveyed said they had experienced a crime or security incident during their transit through the country. In addition, 28% report incidents of kidnapping or forced disappearance.

Economic extortion is a challenge faced by 40% of migrant women and girls along the migration route, where at least 34% report greater vulnerability along the way due to their gender.

“These women are facing imminent danger and require urgent support. We must act swiftly to ensure their safety and well-being. It is imperative to rethink the approach to migration policies, prioritising the welfare and rights of people in the context of mobility and that we prioritise their needs, and provide the necessary resources and protection to prevent further harm,” said Dirk Glas, country representative of Plan International Mexico.

Not enough access to information on migration policies

Out of the 60 women and girls interviewed, 80% felt they did not have enough clear and accessible information about public policies while they were traveling through Mexico. Instead, they mostly relied on talking to family members, getting recommendations from others, and using social media like Facebook and WhatsApp for information.

A significant knowledge gap exists regarding U.S. immigration policies among migrant women and girls. The study found that 73% are unaware of Title 8, the United States law that regulates the policies and procedures for the entry, stay, and naturalisation of non-citizens in the country. This lack of information is concerning, especially considering Title 8 recently replaced Title 42, which was in place for 3 years during the pandemic.

There is an online tool required by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Border Patrol called ‘CBP One’. Nearly 9 out of 10 (47%) people tried to book appointments through the application, but a significant number (31%) faced difficulties with the technology, language, or location limitations.

“These women are facing imminent danger and require urgent support. We must act swiftly to ensure their safety and well-being. “

Dick Glas, country representative Plan International Mexico

Safe and legal migration channels needed

Plan International urges governments to establish safe and legal channels for migration. Desperate journeys without accurate and accessible information leave migrants vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and trafficking.

International protection needs must be prioritised during migration flow management. Delays and changes in plans often result in prolonged separations and leave migrants physically weak and financially exhausted upon arrival in Mexico.

The mandatory use of CBP One excludes those who do not have access to a support network, compatible mobile devices, those who have reading difficulties or cannot access the application in their language. This may also prolong waiting times for interviews and necessitate establishing help and support lines.

Urgent need for improved support systems for migrants

Plan International also highlights the urgent need for improved support systems for migrants. Access to education, health, protection against violence and exploitation in reception spaces and migratory routes is essential.

The suspension of education for all people on the move for long periods, due to lack of access or inclusion of their cultures and languages, exposes them to adversity. Linguistic and cultural barriers also make it difficult to access health and protection schemes provided in fixed locations, particularly for people with gender diversity.

Information exchange is also essential to support migrants throughout their journey. Strategies overcoming language barriers and misinformation, coupled with reliable legal support and promoting accessible and reliable information, can make the difference between a successful and failed migration experience.
Plan International calls on the Mexican government, in its vision of international collaboration, to promote greater cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security. This involves working together to review and improve the CBP One application, focusing on expanding language accessibility, improving technological compatibility, streamlining transparent appointment scheduling, and establishing help lines and support.

Emergencies, Protection from violence, Gender-based violence, Migrant and displaced children