Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate
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July 13, 2017
LAWG Highlights Increased Flow of Central Americans Seeking Asylum in Mexico, Challenges in Accessing Protection
Washington DC—In a report released today, “Does my Story Matter? Seeking Asylum at Mexico’s Southern Border,” the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) highlights how families, individuals, and children from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America-Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, continue to seek international protection not just in the United States but in other countries in the region like Mexico, where in the first three months of 2017 there were more asylum applications than in all of 2015, the majority from Central America.
This flow of asylum seekers demonstrates that the conditions in Central America driving this migration remain largely unchanged—the high levels of gang violence, corruption, and impunity remain some of the worst in the world. Nongovernmental reports from early 2017 demonstrate sustained generalized violence perpetrated by gangs and security forces resulting in forced displacement, extortion, sexual and gender-based violence, and severe limitations on access to education for children. Internal displacement due to the construction of megaprojects is another aggravating factor.
“Mexico’s latest asylum application numbers show us that individuals from Central America continue to seek international protection where they can. While the Mexican government has taken some positive steps, overall access to asylum in Mexico is still the exception rather than the rule. Mexico and the United States shouldn’t return Central Americans fleeing violence to danger but instead ensure due process and screening for all those who fear returning to their homes,” states the principal author of the report, Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate for Mexico, Migrant Rights, and Border Issues. “As the U.S. Congress is marking up bills today that would build walls and ramp up deportation forces, the violence that has created this refugee crisis continues. The U.S. and Mexico should be providing access to asylum for those fleeing danger.”
The report describes the obstacles individuals face in accessing asylum at Mexico’s southern border from the moment they cross into Mexico and face violence from Mexican migration agents, police, or criminal groups to the challenges throughout the actual asylum process and if protection is granted, during their life as a refugee along Mexico’s southern border. It includes direct testimonies from individuals from Central America once they arrived to Mexico’s southern border, from Mexican border communities who provide assistance to migrants and international organizations, NGOs, and migrant shelters working to ensure access to asylum. The report confirms that access to asylum in Mexico is still the exception rather than the rule and that Mexico’s asylum system must be strengthened by increasing resources to expand staffing and coverage for asylum processing across Mexico, expanding alternatives to detention programs for asylum seekers, and ensuring adequate screening and identification of all those in need of protection, including unaccompanied migrant children. U.S. support for improving Mexico’s asylum system should be an integral part of its cooperation with Mexico.