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Asylum seekers in Mexico left in limbo

In 2017, 14,594 refugees came to Mexico fleeing the violence in their countries
Central American immigrants waiting for a train in Chiapas – Photo: Luis Cortés/EL UNIVERSAL
25/02/2018
15:53
Diana Higareda
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Ángel, 30, was born in Honduras but arrived in Mexico in 2007. He isn't here for tourism. He fled his country. He left his family behind, his traditions, and the few possessions he owned due to the constant threats of drug dealers. He became a prisoner in his own home. His only way out was to cross the border.

“I didn't want to leave my country or my family. I didn't do it because I wanted to, I did it because I had no choice. I'm not here to harm anyone, I simply came to save my life and that of my family's, to find work here,” says this man.

He's not alone. Between 2013 and 2017, there were 30, 249 cases similar to that of Ángel in Mexico. They came here as a way to escape from the violence of their own countries. Yet seeking asylum in a foreign country is a process full of uncertainty. Moreover, concluding it doesn't mean you'll get a favorable reply.

Out of the 15,336 asylum seekers who came to our country, only 6,803 were granted permission to stay as refugees.

The rest – that is, 14,000 people – have either abandoned their dream or continue waiting for the Mexican Government to help them.

Each year, an average of 1,400 foreigners give up trying to find a legal way to stay in Mexico. The waiting time is the main factor. Up until the latest update in December, 7,834 migrants were still awaiting a resolution. They are in limbo.

This situation only got worse after October 2017, when the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) issued a suspension after the September 19 earthquake. That is, although it is still possible to petition for asylum in Mexico, the response time, which ranged between the 45 to 90 days before September 19, is now indefinite.

“The asylum-seeking system in Mexico is weakened, especially since this suspension of the COMAR. This speech of Mexico having its doors open is just in theory,” explains Paulo Martínez, a representative of the civil society organizations Sin Fronteras (No Borders).

It has fallen to civil organizations to fulfill a task that doesn't belong to them, a task that is expensive and, according to projections of the UN, will not recede anytime soon, as the number of asylum seekers increases each year.

“The cost of attending to these people has soared,” says Marco Galicia, manager of Casa de los Amigos (Friend's House) a shelter currently spending an average of MXN$60,000 in the basic expenses of only three refugees. Yet, civil society organizations are still the firsts providing an initial assistance to all asylum-seekers.

At the offices of the COMAR, nationality seems to be an important factor when processing requests. In recent years, the amount of support Salvadoran and Honduran receive has dwindled considerably, while the support to Venezuelans increased between 2016 and 2017.

“I like to work. I can be a security guard, or help in a kitchen, wherever help is wanted. I only need to be given an opportunity,” says Ángel, who continues waiting for the Mexican Government to help him.

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