Social Issues

World Refugee Day finds Mexico facing torrent of asylum claims

By Pedro Pablo Cortes

Mexico City, Jun 20 (EFE).- Sunday’s observance of World Refugee Day 2021 served to remind Mexicans that their government was deluged with more asylum requests in the first five months of this year than in all of 2020.

Comar, the country’s refugee agency, had received 41,195 applications by May 31, compared with 41,179 over the 12 months that ended Dec. 31, 2020.

While last year’s total was held down by Covid-19, the January-May 2021 accumulation is 68 percent higher than the 24,551 applications filed in the first five months of 2019.

“Mexico is increasingly becoming a reception country where we are seeing figures that are going to exceed the historic record of 80,000 refugees,” Marcos Tamariz, deputy head of mission in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala for Doctors Without Borders, told Efe.

As last year came to a close, the number of Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees and asylum-seekers on Mexican soil stood at 78,600, the United Nations Refugee Agency says in a new report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2020.

In other words, 14 percent of the nearly 550,000 people displaced from those three countries – known as the Northern Triangle – opted to apply for asylum in Mexico

“While the intended destination of people on the move from these three countries generally remains the United States, some are increasingly settling in Mexico and a much smaller number go south to Costa Rica and Panama,” the UN report notes.

The current asylum applicants in Mexico represent more than 78 nationalities, but just six countries – Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti – account for 90 percent of the asylum-seekers, according to figures provided by Comar.

Mexico has expressed willingness to accommodate “orderly, safe and regular” migration and the current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, emphasizes the need to address the circumstances that drive people in Central America to flee their homelands.

Even so, the INM immigration agency said in its latest bulletin, issued June 6, that it has deported 42,000 of the nearly 91,000 undocumented migrants apprehended so far in 2021.

And many asylum applicants are awaiting the processing of their claims in situations akin to detention, Tamariz said.

Comar has managed to resolve just over 13,000 asylum applications year-to-date, granting asylum in 73 percent of those cases.

The process is slow because Comar “does not have sufficient resources to respond to all these applications,” the director of the group Asylum Access Mexico, Alejandra Macias, told Efe, pointing out that the agency is heavily reliant on funding from the UN and from NGOs.

“I believe the increase (in asylum applications) in Mexico is to do with the restrictions that exist in the United States to apply for refugee status,” Macias said. “There is a much greater possibility in Mexico for a person to be recognized as a refugee.”

Tamariz said he hoped that World Refugee Day would be an occasion for reflection on the plight of displaced people.

“That is the heart of the message for this year, to remember that in these moments of special challenges for the whole world, we must act humanely toward the most vulnerable,” he said. EFE


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