Sunday, June 23, 2024

Mexico prepared to offer asylum to 13,000 Haitians, foreign minister tells Senate

Mexico will offer asylum to more than 13,000 Haitian migrants, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said during an appearance before the Senate on Tuesday.

The minister said the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) advised that 13,255 Haitians qualify or will qualify for asylum.

“What is Mexico’s position going to be? Those who want refugee status will be given it,” Ebrard told senators, adding that Mexico is a country that infrequently rejects asylum requests.

He also said a new wave of Haitian migrants could soon arrive in Mexico via Central America.

“What do we know about what will happen in the coming days? Well, we’re in contact with the foreign ministries of other countries – Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, so we know there are movements [of migrants] but we don’t yet know what size they will be,” Ebrard said.

Haitians have recently been traveling from South American countries such as Chile and Brazil to the northern coast of Colombia in order to travel by boat to Panama before continuing northward through Central America to Mexico’s southern border.

Ebrard said Haitians are leaving Chile and Brazil, countries in which many were granted refugee status years ago, because they mistakenly believe they will qualify for asylum in the United States.

However, thousands of Haitians have recently been deported from that country after crossing the border at Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila.

Probed by senators about the recent use of force to detain migrants traveling on foot in Chiapas, the foreign minister condemned the practice, saying that photographs and video footage of violence “angers everyone,” including the highest ranking members of the federal government.

“We mustn’t allow human rights to be violated for any reason,” he said. “For that reason the National Immigration Institute was asked to suspend, investigate and sanction those who commit human rights abuses. That will never be justifiable.”

Despite the recent arrest of hundreds of migrants traveling in four caravans that departed Tapachula, Ebrard, a leading contender to become Mexico’s next president, rejected an independent senator’s claim that Mexico has effectively become a border wall for the United States.

A Tapachula, Chiapas, stadium
A Tapachula, Chiapas, stadium has been converted into a refugee processing center.

When former United States president Donald Trump threatened in 2019 to impose blanket tariffs on Mexican goods if Mexico didn’t do more to stop migration flows, 144,000 people per month were crossing the northern border whereas the figure is currently about 200,000, he said.

“So Mexico is not a wall nor is it true that fewer [migrants] are arriving. … What we’re trying to do, what we are doing, is [saying to migrants] if you’re going to be a refugee in Mexico, respect the refugee rules in Mexico,” Ebrard said.

Haitians who recently left Tapachula in four migrant caravans did so without papers after waiting for weeks or months for their asylum claims to be processed by COMAR, which has been overwhelmed this year.

On Tuesday, the agency set up shop in a stadium in Tapachula to attend to migrants, who number some 120,000 according to an unofficial estimate. COMAR predicted it would be able to process 2,000 asylum requests daily.

Back in the Senate, Ebrard also noted that Mexico successfully lobbied the United States to invest in the expansion of Mexican government employment programs to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

High ranking Mexican officials are in contact with their United States counterparts on a regular basis, the minister said, describing the frequency as unprecedented. Progress has been made on shared problems, he added.

“There are those who assume that the only relationship with the United States is one of subordination,” Ebrard said before dismissing the notion.

However, the U.S. has only agreed to collaborate on the Central American employment programs. No cash has been forthcoming, nor has President Joe Biden replied to Mexico’s most recent petition for financial support for those programs, made in a letter by President López Obrador on September 7.

Last week the Mexican president reproached the U.S. government for its lack of response. “Nothing has arrived, nothing,” he told reporters at his morning press conference on Wednesday. “Enough talk, it’s time for action.”

With reports from Milenio and Proceso 

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