The Institute for Women in Migration (Imumi), a Mexican migrant-rights group, says in a study released in late December that 47,000 migrants have died in the last six years because of criminal acts against them while traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States.  The group bases the number – an estimate, since no official record is kept of murdered or disappeared migrants – on studies performed by a team of Argentine forensic anthropologists, and says 8,800 have still yet to be identified. 

The study comes less than two weeks after Father Alejandro Solalinde, long a blunt and full-throated champion of migrant rights who runs a shelter in the southern state of Oaxaca, told members of the press during an event to commemorate International Migrants Day that the “precise term” to describe “what is happening with migrants in Mexico…wouldn’t be ‘extermination’, but rather ‘Holocaust’.”  Solalinde continued, “From the time they leave their countries of origin there’s violence, a life which they can’t live there.  But when they reach Mexico, tell me it’s not a holocaust when there’s more than 10,000 disappeared, dozens of kidnappings which still haven’t been cleared up.”

It’s not known how many migrants – the majority from Central America or states in the south – head through Mexico on their way to the United States, but most estimates put the number at around 400,000-500,000 annually.  They’re often preyed upon by drug cartels, at times in collaboration with members of the police.  A recent study using numbers from a network of human-rights groups found that of the 21,000 migrant surveyed, 52 percent had been the victim of robbery, 33 percent were extorted and 4 percent were kidnapped.  Two states were found to be the epicenters of crime against migrants – Chiapas, where most Central Americans cross the border into Mexico, and the Gulf state of Veracruz, an important stopover point on the trains atop which migrants frequently hitch a ride north.