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Kelly Clements The UN's deputy commissioner for refugees, Kelly Clements, during a tour of the northern border area earlier this month.

Dealing with asylum applications will take ‘monumental effort,’ says UN official

A record number of refugees are expected this year

With an unprecedented number of Central American migrants entering the country and seeking asylum, Mexico needs to strengthen its refugee assistance program, says the UN’s deputy high commissioner for refugees.

Kelly Clements has completed a tour of the northern and southern border areas to evaluate a UN pilot program that seeks to resettle refugees who might otherwise seek asylum in the United States.

In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, Clements said she witnessed “a constant flow of asylum seekers” on the southern border, leading the UN Refugee Agency to open a permanent dialogue with the Mexican government to explore how the international community can help the country adapt to the challenge of being a destination country for asylum seekers.

“I believe that if we expand the capacity to process asylum requests in Mexico, we will avoid people taking desperate, risky journeys to the northern border,” Clements said. “They can be received in Tapachula, Tenosique or Mexico City. It’s a long term project, but it is urgent.”

Mexico is on track to receive a record number of asylum applications this year given the figures recorded so far. Mexico’s refugee agency, Comar, estimates that the total for 2021 could go as high as 90,000, well over the record 70,000 received in 2019.

And that’s on top of the estimated half a million people described as refugees who are already in Mexico, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Clements said the UN and the Mexican government are looking into ways to deal with the problems in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that lead people to flee, seeking to help the countries resolve their internal crises.

“This will take a monumental, coordinated effort with international cooperation and support from Mexico,” Clements said.

On the northern border, the UN is considering how to deal with the fallout of the United States’ Remain in Mexico program, which led to the creation of camps where refugees live in substandard conditions.

“Mexico finds itself in a complicated position between the United States and the southern countries,” Clements said. “It’s a difficult position and we have worked closely with the United States government on its expectations and on the reconstruction of its asylum system, which was damaged over the last few years.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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