Thursday, June 20, 2024

Asylum applications in Mexico hit historic numbers this year

Mexico has received a record number of refugee applications this year, registering 136,934 requests for asylum from January through November.

The first 11 months of 2023 have already broken the one-year record of asylum applications received in Mexico, set in 2021 with 129,658 applications, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) reported Tuesday. Last year’s total was 119,300.

More than 136,000 applications have been made to Mexican authorities so far this year. (Damián Sánchez/Cuartoscuro)

Andrés Ramírez Silva, the general coordinator of COMAR, highlighted the new milestone, noting a 5.6% increase over 2021’s record number. The number of requests for asylum has been growing steadily since 2017, when total requests were only 14,619. The next year it jumped to 29,471, then soared to 70,300 in 2019.

The surge is marked by caravans – largely composed of Central Americans – aiming to reach the United States. These migrants are generally fleeing violence in their nations, or economic, social and political crises. Despite pandemic challenges and regional restrictions, migration into Mexico has persisted.

Silva noted that the latest surge primarily involves applicants from Haiti, Honduras and Cuba. Together, migrants from those countries have accounted for 101,287 applications this year, nearly 74% of the total. Approximately 54% of the applications submitted this year have been received by COMAR in the Chiapas city of Tapachula, which lies on the border with Guatemala. The Mexico City office reports having received 22% of applications, with 6% going to the COMAR office in Palenque, Chiapas.

During a short spell six months ago, Mexico City was processing more applications than Tapachula, and in news articles at that time, Ramírez couldn’t help but observe the swelling number of applications overall.

A significant number of migrants – primarily those from crime-stricken Haiti – set up makeshift camps in Mexico City. (Daniel Augosto/Cuartoscuro)

“At the rate we’re going, we will easily reach 140,000 asylum seekers [this year] in COMAR,” Ramírez told the newspaper Milenio in May. “It would be a historic record.”

Mexico’s upswing in refugee applications coincides with record migration into the United States. For fiscal year 2023, which ended on Sept. 30, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a record 2.48 million enforcement actions along the Southwest Land Border, breaking the record of 2.38 million set in FY 2022.

Mexico remains the main transit route for Central American migrants heading to the United States, which has led to increased vigilance and control on the U.S. southern border, including the installation of barricades by the Texas government, later deemed illegal by a federal judge.

Amidst what CBP has deemed “the largest displacement of individuals globally since World War II,” COMAR continues to grapple with managing the influx of applicants. According to its data, more than 550,000 refugee applications have been submitted in Mexico since 2013.

Silva noted that an overwhelming number of 2023 asylum applicants have been from Haiti (43,459), Honduras (40,142) and Cuba (17,686). He also shared data on applicants from other countries: 5,900 Salvadorans have applied for asylum, as have 5,896 Guatemalans, 5,388 Venezuelans, 3,675 Brazilians, 3,476 Chileans, 2,468 Colombians, 1,723 Afghans and 7,121 nationals of other countries.

With reports from El Economista and Forbes México

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