Migrants Seek Asylum in Mexico at Record Rate; Government to Launch Asylum App
FAIR Take | June 2023
For the first four months of the year, Mexico’s refugee assistance agency (COMAR) received 48,970 asylum applications, 35% more than in the same period of 2021, a record year. Two weeks later, that number had grown to more than 56,000 migrants. At this rate, Mexico is expecting a record-breaking number of asylum applications by the end of 2023.
According to COMAR, the top five nationalities seeking asylum in Mexico were Haitian, Honduran, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Salvadoran. Angolan was the only nationality in the top 10 from outside the Western hemisphere, COMAR data shows.
Not only are asylum applications in Mexico skyrocketing, the location of migrants seeking asylum is also changing. For the first time in COMAR’s history, during the first 18 days of May, more asylum applications were filed in Mexico City (3,300) than in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula (3,000), which borders Guatemala.
The growing number of asylum-seekers staying in Mexico City has placed a strain on the shelters there. Representatives from Doctors without Borders in Mexico City have expressed concern about the health and living conditions for migrants in overcrowded shelters or living on the streets. That organization reports that the migrants in shelters there are predominantly Haitians and Venezuelans, followed by Mexicans and Central Americans, with a few Afghans and Angolans. UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, similarly said in a statement it is “concerned about the pressure on nonprofit shelters for refugees and migrants in southern Mexico and Mexico City.” According to a recent story by NPR, four of the five major migrant shelters in Mexico City are well over capacity.
The growing humanitarian crisis is not only due to the sheer numbers of migrants arriving in Mexico, but the failure of government authorities to act. Clearly, neither the U.S. nor Mexican governments have secured their respective southern borders to discourage the massive influx of migrants, most of whom are economic. At the same time, Mexico has not done enough to support the asylum-seekers who do arrive. Unlike migrant programs and shelters in the United States, which are funded with taxpayer dollars, the shelters in Mexico rely entirely on private donations and U.N. funding. Indeed, for 2023, COMAR had a minuscule budget of $2.3 million dollars, with an additional $6 million provided by UNHCR.
This has led some to question whether Mexico is really serious about being a regional partner to the U.S. and sharing the burden of absorbing mass waves of asylum seekers. The director of one Catholic charity operating in Mexico City lamented, “At the end of the day, the nonprofit shelters are the only ones doing what we can…There is not the least political will to resolve this humanitarian crisis.”
Interestingly, the flood of asylum-seekers in Mexico has led COMAR to develop a mobile app, much like the CBP One App, to allow migrants in Mexico to start their asylum applications online. Officials hope this program will help speed up asylum processing. But as we have already learned through the CBP One App, no program to improve processing can keep up with the current levels of demand. True policy changes are needed, which means the U.S. and Mexican governments will need to get serious about securing the border.