Honduras + 4 more

Violence and Protection in the North of Central America, REDLAC Snapshot #8 - Extortion: A Key Trigger of Internal Displacement and Forced Migration in the North of Central America and Mexico

Originally published


This snapshot explores the links between extortion, internal displacement and forced migration in the North of Central America (NCA) and the migration route in Mexico. Although the definition varies across different national legislations, we understand extortion as being the use of intimidation, violence or threats to force someone to do something or to obtain someone’s property.

This type of aggression one of the main drivers of displacement in the region, but it is also one of the main crimes that people are subjected to during displacement, as well as after deportation back to their countries of origin. As such, extortion transcends international borders as one of the main human rights violations committed against displaced people and migrants.

In order to outline the issue of extortion and its relationship with internal displacement and forced migration in this region, this snapshot explores the phenomenon of extortion, its protagonists and consequences. The first section compiles an update on the recent data related to the ongoing protection crisis in the region.

Secondly the snapshot provides analysis on the regional similarities and trends related to extortion, and then provides a more detailed examination of the situation in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, through national chapters. Finally, a brief annex explores the protection risks related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key messages

  1. Extortion is often reported as one of the main triggers of forced displacement. However, the magnitude of the phenomenon is difficult to quantify, as other triggers of displacement (such as homicides, injuries, sexual violence, and threats) can be directly related to the collection of extortion fees.

  2. In other cases, migration reported to be due to economic factors can often hide stories of forced displacement triggered by extortion. Some examples include being forced to shut down a family business, or losing an income source, as a result of extortion.

  3. When faced with extortion, people often employ protection mechanisms that subject them to increased risks. These include staying confined at home, internal displacement or forced migration.

  4. Impunity, distrust in authority and fear of retaliation from those committing extortion makes the latter prone to underreporting and difficult to measure.


REDLAC Protection Group, led by the Norwegian Refugee Council and supported by AECID and ECHO