More Migrants Seek Asylum in Mexico

Mexico News Daily, December 17, 2016

Migrants seeking asylum in the United States have dominated news stories in recent months, but Mexico too is a popular destination and the numbers — which have soared — prove it.

Asylum requests from citizens of Central American nations have been increasing by an estimated 9% per month since 2015, said the director of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar).

Last year, the agency, which operates under the Interior Secretariat, received 3,424 asylum applications. Cinthia Pérez predicted that 2016 will close with around 8,000.

And the figure could well rise to 22,500 by the end of 2017 if the trend continues.

“Everything seems to indicate that the number of applicants will keep rising,” Pérez told Fox News in an interview.

She added that conditions in Central America — gang warfare and violence, poverty and a widespread regional drought — have forced the rural poor into the cities. Those are the three main reasons for the asylum applications.

The approval of applications has also increased. While in 2013 only 40% were accepted, this year it’s over 70%.

The Comar chief said there was evidence that more of those granted asylum were choosing to stay in Mexico, but she acknowledged that some might use their refugee status to travel unimpeded to the United States border.

Created in the 1980s as a response to the thousands of refugees coming from the civil war in Guatemala, Comar remained a rather obscure office of the Interior Secretariat.

As such, its 2015 budget of 26 million pesos (about US $1.75 million) was “a tiny amount relative to the problem.”

Pérez said she was hoping for more funds in the 2017 budget, but acknowledged a sustained drop in government oil revenue and a series of cutbacks in federal government spending made it unlikely.

Last September, after realizing Comar was struggling to make ends meet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stepped in and provided Comar with enough funding to hire more staff.

A month ago, the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and its counterparts from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala agreed to create a migrant protection network, liaise for coordination with U.S. authorities and to meet regularly.

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