Skip to main content

Repository of Practices

Migrant Protection Beta Groups (“Grupos Beta” in Spanish)

Primary GCM Objectives

GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


1990 - Present

Type of practice


Latest content



Sub Regions:


Municipalities in northern and southern border states of Mexico, distributed strategically and across the states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca


For the majority of migrants, Mexico has historically been a country of origin or transit as they head towards the United States (US). However, greater numbers of migrants are now staying for longer periods of time in Mexico as more stringent immigration policies in the US require them to remain in Mexico while they wait for requests to enter the US. Others may have attempted to cross the border irregularly and have been returned to Mexico, or others have had requests to enter the US denied. Migrants transiting through Mexico encounter many serious risks to their safety. Migrants who seek to cross borders illegally face potential drowning, death from heatstroke, risk of becoming victims of crime, or being apprehended by border police, part of a larger pattern of violence seen at the Mexico-US borders, particularly as US migration policies grow less flexible.

Grupos Beta started in August of 1990 with a pilot in Tijuana, Baja California, with the initial aim of supporting migrants who had fallen victim to crime during their transit through Mexican territory. At the time of writing, there are 22 Grupos Beta spanning nine states of Mexico: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca. Grupos Beta operate in border areas where there are consistent migratory flows. Mexico's Migration Law specifically mentions that Grupos Beta have the obligation to protect and defend the rights of migrants regardless of their nationality and migration status in the country. Priority is given to migrants demonstrating greater vulnerability, including people living with a disability, unaccompanied children, and children travelling with family members, all of whom have priority for shelters run by civil society or by other institutions.

Grupos Beta is characterised by four principle lines of action:

● Search and rescue of migrants in high-risk situations, carried out in coordination with relevant specialised institutions. There are also recognizance missions carried out in border areas where there are frequent migratory movements, strategically placed risk prevention signs, and orientation towers standing 10 metres high, with a strobe light visible for 10 kilometres. They provide migrants with shade, a place to rest, and drinking water containers.

● Provision of humanitarian aid in the form of first aid (and transfers to hospitals for serious cases), transfer to shelters, provision of water and food to meet immediate needs, and phone calls to loved ones.

● Initial orientation through provision of both written and verbal information on their rights and obligations while within Mexico, as well as the risks associated with their journey.

● Provision of basic legal advice, primarily through channelling complaints of migrants. The various Grupos Beta work in coordination with hospitals, consulates, the Civil Protection, prosecutors for migrant care, and the municipalities along the migratory routes.

Grupos Beta is implemented in northern and southern border states of Mexico, distributed strategically and across the states of Baja California (Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali), Sonora (San Luis Río Colorado, Sonoandta, Nogales, Sásabe and Agua Prieta), Chihuahua (Ciudad Juárez, Puerto Palomas and Ojinaga), Coahuila (Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña), Tamaulipas (Matamoros), Veracruz (Acaanducan), Tabasco (Tenosique), Chiapas (Tapachula, Arriaga, Comitán, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Palenque) and Oaxaca (Ixtepec).


Main Implementing Organization(s)

Government of Mexico

Detailed Information

The General Directorate for Migrant Protection and Liaison of the National Institute for Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migración or the INM through the Dirección General de Protección al Migrante y Vinculación - Dirección de Protección al Migrante)

Benefit and Impact

Grupos Beta attribute the success of their work in part to the trust they have earned among migrants through their humanitarian services as migrants feel they can approach the group for their humanitarian needs. Key informants associated with Grupos Beta note that help is given to those who most need it, with the larger impact that fewer people, over the course of the more than 30 years of its existence, have lost their lives or been injured. This is particularly the case in the northern borders with the United States, a decisive area characterised by rugged areas. While it is difficult to quantify the prevention of loss of life, Grupos Beta report having reached a large number of people in recent years. For example, in 2022, Grupos Beta provided an orientation to more than 175 000 people, of whom social assistance was offered to over 126 000, and 1600 benefitted from search and rescue. In the first half of 2023, over 121 000 people received orientation, of whom over 71 000 received social assistance and 475 were rescued. In the first half of 2023, a total of 209 location requests were answered, corresponding to the search of 1 274 migrants, of which a total of ten people were found.

More broadly, Grupos Beta are grounded in Mexico’s Migration Law, and particularly in the INM Guidelines for Migrants Protection, created specifically to direct the operation and functioning of the programs and strategies aimed at assisting migrants, emphasising that the assistance must be provided respecting migrants human rights. It also contains multiple articles related to the rights of migrants regardless of origin, nationality, gender, ethnicity, age, and status, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as women and minors. Similarly, migrants are not obligated to provide information on their place of origin or their name in order to receive assistance; for migrants that choose to share their data, they are informed that their data is only shared with relevant authorities, direct relatives, and consulates.

Key Lessons

There are numerous challenges that have been encountered:

● Language barriers can be problematic, especially given the diversity of migrant populations that transit through Mexico that do not speak Spanish. While migrants work to help each other through the use of technology and phones, there is a need for more material in different languages.
● During periods of massive flows of people through Mexico (known by some as the caravans, or caravanas in Spanish), institutions have not always been able to absorb the number of people coming through.
● Financial resources and personnel are limited, and there is a need for an amped up presence and staff training of Grupos Beta in certain regions of the country.
● Renewal of the equipment and supplies to carry out search, rescue and recovery of migrants.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

The success of Grupos Beta is partially attributed to significant capacity-building from which their personnel have benefitted, including training given by the United States in first aid, crisis care, aquatic and land search and rescue, and management of GPS monitoring systems. According to the key informants interviewed for this practice, having personnel that have received specialised training is key to providing relevant services to migrants. Additionally, the various Grupos Beta members take courses around immigration legislation, human trafficking, and human rights. Grupos Beta collaborates with the ICRC and the Mexican Red Cross to take courses on first aid. They have also benefited from specialised capacity-building, including the use of drones to help them locate migrants in distress, and of airboats in river areas. Key informants interviewed also noted the importance of communication with the network of partners--the Civil Protection, municipal authorities, and hospitals– which enables Grupos Beta to respond as soon as possible following incidents, by, for example, sending ambulances from the nearest municipality in the case of severely injured migrants. Finally, it is important to communicate with prospective migrants in their countries of origin about the risks associated with the journey and what they can really expect.


As migratory routes can change and migratory flows ebb and flow, the Grupos Beta are able to adapt their response in line with the current needs, and the services offered by different groups can change temporarily or permanently in line with the situation in each respective region. Key informants noted that the capacity-building they had received in the use of drones has helped them locate migrants in difficult situations, and the use of airboats in Rio Bravo have been essential to carry out rescue missions.
According to key informants, the practice is replicable and following the experience of Grupos Beta in Mexico, a comparable system was established in Panama in the areas where migrants often enter from Venezuela and the Colombian border (Darién). IOM facilitated an exchange of practices between Grupos Beta and Panama, and so Panama created its Humanitarian Border Security Unit following this exchange.

Date submitted:

28 September 2023

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.



*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).