Nearly 900 officials in Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) were sanctioned over the last seven years, pointing to an endemically high level of corruption that is instrumental in aiding the country's human smuggling networks and selling migrants to drug gangs.
From January 2006 to December 2012, 883 INM officials were suspended, fined or dismissed from the job for irregular conduct, equating to over 10 corruption cases a month, reported El Economista.
According to the report, 2011 was the worst year for corruption within the INM, with 230 cases registered.
The release of these statistics appears to have come as a result of the Federal Institute of Access to Public Information and Data Protection (IFAI) having ordered the INM to provide information on the number of dismissals carried out since 2006.
On January 5, two days prior to the figures becoming public, Father Alejandro Solalinde, who is actively involved in defending migrants' rights, called on the government to make restructuring the INM a priority or risk continually high levels of corruption, reported Diario de Yucatan.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mexico is a key transit point for thousands of illegal Central American migrants travelling north to the United States. These people -- who typically enlist the help of so-called "coyotes" to help smuggle them through the country -- are highly vulnerable to organized criminal groups seeking to kidnap and extort them on their journey. The most notorious among these groups is the Zetas who were responsible for the massacre of 72 Central American migrants in 2010.
[See InSight Crime's special on migrants: Part I, Part II, and Part III]
Corruption within the INM, particularly in the form of complicity with criminal networks, is not new. In 2011, for example, a group of over 100 migrants claimed that after were detained by the INM, the agency handed them over to gangs who held them hostage for ransom. Six INM officials were subsequently arrested.
These latest figures do not provide a breakdown of why the officers in question were sanctioned. However, the alarming number of cases over the last seven years points to worrying signs that gangs are heavily reliant on corrupt authorities to operate their migrant kidnapping rings.
The government announced in 2011 that it would conduct a series of sweeping reforms of the immigration institution. Given the number of officials sanctioned in 2012 (198), though, it appears such measures are still a long way off.