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Asylum in Mexico: A Plural Tradition

Politicians, scientists, artists, religious, activists, ethnic groups, ex-combatants, and even an overthrown monarch have found shelter in Mexico since the 20th century
Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) – Photo: Taken from gob.mx website
06/01/2018
10:15
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Politicians, scientists, artists, religious, activists, ethnic groups, ex-combatants, and even an overthrown monarch have found shelter in Mexico since the 20th century, as a result of the country's uninterrupted tradition of both political and humanitarian asylum.

Asylum in both Mexico and Latin America is consolidated, according to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), at a series of conventions on the subject in Havana (1928), Montevideo (1933) and Caracas (1954). It should be noted that both Havana and Montevideo laid the legal foundations which led the Government of President Lázaro Cárdenas to receive Spanish Republicans—mostly intellectuals and scholars—who lost the civil war against the Franco regime in 1937, being one of the most important waves of refugees in the history of Mexico.

Decades later and bearing in mind relevant groups that arrived in Mexico between 1920 and 1960, such as those from the former Russian Empire, European Jews who fled Nazism, Americans, and Guatemalans, after 1970 the doors were opened to thousands of Argentines, Chileans, Uruguayans, Bolivians, Brazilians, Peruvians, and Colombians, who were victims of repression and of frequent coups d'état in their respective countries. The situation repeated itself in the eighties due to the Central American conflicts with the 100,000 indigenous people from Guatemala who settled in Chiapas along with Salvadorans who settled in Mexico City.

At that time, Mexico bewildered the world by receiving the overthrown Mohamed Reza Pahlevi, Shah of Iran, as a tourist, after having visited Egypt, Morocco, and the Bahamas. In his residence in Cuernavaca, Morelos, the cancer he suffered, which he kept from his Mexican doctors, worsened. In 1979, the United States reluctantly allowed him to receive the appropriate treatment in its territory, thus the Government of President José López Portillo prohibited his return to Mexico in order to win the vote of Cuba to occupy a temporary seat in the United Nations Security Council, according to The Shah (McMillan, 2011) by Abbas Milani.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicated that, since 2011, the requests of foreigners seeking to be recognized as refugees have increased beyond 1000%, mainly from Central America's "Northern Triangle" (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) as a result of the series of problems of violence and poverty they encounter every day. At the same time, thousands of Venezuelans have joined them, given the worsening economic crisis in their country.

It should be noted, in this context, that non-governmental organizations such as Sin Fronteras I.A.P., the American Friends Service Committee and the Center for Justice and International Law, criticized last November the government's decision to suspend indefinitely COMAR's responses to requests for international protection in Mexico City, because of the damage suffered at its headquarters after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the country on September 19, affecting, as they pointed out, more than 5,000 people, especially from Latin America.

On its website, COMAR, attached to the Ministry of the Interior, explains that in the agreement published in the Official Gazette of the Federation on October 30, it was established that the term—45 working days—for the agency to issue a resolution has stopped, yet it "does not mean that they have stopped working" on refugee applications, nor ceasing to assist the population applying for refugee status, refugees and beneficiaries of complementary protection in the country.

Applying for political asylum in Mexico

These are the steps to request political asylum in our country:

  • The interested party must go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) in Mexico City or one of its offices outside Mexico City to submit the refugee application, which requires personal data, the reasons for the request and elements to support the request.
  • Once the application has been submitted, the interested party will be protected by the SRE for 45 working days, and the Ministry will decide whether or not to approve political asylum. If approved, the interested party will be transferred to national territory if it is required.
  • In case the request is denied, the interested party will be returned to their place of origin.

Visit the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR)​ website in Spanish.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen
 

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