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PLoS One. 2019 Aug 21;14(8):e0220775. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220775. eCollection 2019.

Migrants in transit through Mexico to the US: Experiences with violence and related factors, 2009-2015.

Author information

Health Systems Research Center, National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.
Center for Policy, Population and Health Research, School of Medicine, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico.
College of Science and Humanities, Autonomous University of Mexico City, Mexico City, Mexico.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Valparaiso, Valparaiso, San Felipe, Chile.



The objectives of the study are to 1) estimate the burden of physical, sexual, and psychological violence among migrants in transit through Mexico to the US; and 2) examine the associations between experiencing violence and sociodemographic characteristics, migratory background, and health status in this vulnerable population.


A cross-sectional study combining qualitative and quantitative methods was carried out from 2009 to 2015 with a sample of 12,023 migrants in transit through Mexico to the US. Information on gender (male, female, and transsexual, transgender and transvestite -TTTs-); nationality; health status; migratory background; and experiences with violence was obtained. Fifty-eight migrants participated in in-depth interviews to explore any experiences of violence during their journey. A descriptive analysis was performed and a probit regression model was applied to analyze the factors associated with violence. Qualitative information was analyzed to understand experiences, meanings and responses to violence.


The overall prevalence of suffering from any form of violence was 29.4%. Nearly 24% reported physical violence, 19.5% experienced psychological violence, and approximately 2% reported sexual violence. TTTs experienced a significantly greater burden of violence compared to men and women. Violence occurred more frequently among migrants from Central American (30.6%) and other countries (40.0%) than it did among Mexican migrants (20.5%). Experiences involving sexual, physical and psychological violence as well as theft and even kidnapping were described by interviewees. Migrants mistrust the police, migration authorities, and armed forces, and therefore commonly refrain from revealing their experiences.


Migrants are subjected to a high level of violence while in transit to the US. Those traveling under irregular migratory conditions are targets of even greater violence, a condition exacerbated by gender inequality. Migrants transiting through Mexico from Central American and other countries undergo violence more frequently than do Mexican migrants. Protective measures are urgently needed to ensure the human rights of these populations.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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