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Mexico’s role in the US-Central American migration regime is threefold: not only is it a country of origin, and a transit country, but also increasingly becoming a receiving country for migrants who flee from violence, insecurity and poverty. The Mexican state responds with detention enforcement. Clinical research usually puts emphasise on the negative impact of detention enforcement on the detainees‘ mental health. Yet, it often disregards the spatial configurations of detention centres and their socio-political context. This study aims to fill this gap by analysing how such factors create harmful environments that affect both the detainees‘ mental health and their social life in Mexico’s migration detention centres. The study’s mixed method approach builds on semi-structured interviews with a sample of N = 56 migrants of diverse nationalities and varying socioeconomic status of whom 22 were still detained while 34 had been released. The interviews include the Torturing Environment Scale (TES), a novel instrument for the analysis of detention environments, as well as clinical psychological measures of emotional distress. Additional n = 10 in-depth interviews with human rights advocates to explore the interconnections between the detention environments, their impact on mental health, and Mexican migration politics. Facultative counter-mappings of the detention centres complement the interviews. Without exception, all interviews of detainees underline that the manipulation of detention conditions creates torturing environments that cause harm to basic physiological and psychological needs. A comparison between detained vs. released interviewees revealed lasting feelings of fear and shame. The study emphasises that immigration detention immobilises migrants in a necropolitical limbo, which destroys hope as much as human integrity. It indicates that detention is part of deterrence politics, which perpetuates harm and inequality through detention and deportation. Highlighting structural human rights violations, the findings stress the need to review current migration policies.

Ficha técnica


Julia Manek, Andrea Galán Santamarina y Pau Pérez Sales


Humanities and Social Sciences Communications


Manek, J., Galán-Santamarina, A. & Pérez-Sales, P. Torturing environments and multiple injuries in Mexican migration detention. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 9, 263 (2022).

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