By Juan Manuel Blanco
Tapachula, Mexico, Jul 29 (EFE).- Migrants here on Mexico’s southern border face a long wait as the Comar asylum agency is struggling to process a record number of applications.
Fernando Can, a Guatemalan who headed north with his family to escape violence in their homeland, came face-to-face with that reality this week at the Comar office in Tapachula, the southernmost city in Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas.
Though most migrants see reaching the United States as their ultimate goal, an increasing percentage are amenable to seeking a better life in Mexico as Washington takes steps to deter asylum-seekers.
“We are thinking of staying in Mexico, that they give us the possibility of work if we have the request for refugee status. They have said to us that it’s somewhat difficult,” he told EFE.
Comar received nearly 75,000 asylum applications in the first half of 2023 and expects to end the year with an unprecedented total of 150,000, director Andres Ramirez said earlier this week in an interview with EFE.
He acknowledged that the agency’s budget is not sufficient to handle the dramatically increased workload.
Joaquin Gonzalez, one of several hundred Cubans waiting in Tapachula for Comar to act on their applications, confided to EFE that he and his family remain determined to continue on to the US even if they are granted asylum in Mexico.
Activists demand that Comar and the Mexican government give priority to applications from women and children on the southern border.
The head of the Center for Human Dignity, Luis Rey Garcia Villagran, said that lawmakers should increase Comar’s budget and provide more resources to ensure the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable among the migrants.
Garcia Villagran has protested outside the Comar office about the brutal conditions endured by those standing in line under the hot sun, who are preyed upon by migrants traffickers, known in Mexico as “coyotes.”
The answer, according to the activist, is to allow the migrants free transit across Mexico.
“These people should get their passports stamped, continue and keep moving. They shouldn’t have to stand in long lines, shouldn’t have to wait because they are exposed to inclement weather, sick children who are given nothing to eat,” Garcia Villagran said. “Let them travel across Chiapas immediately to where they have to go.”
Women and children traveling without men are the most exposed to abuse, extortion, and other kinds of victimization, he said.
“As soon as they see migrant children they should give them the document to continue moving forward,” Garcia Villagran said. EFE jmb/dr