1. Description of refugee situation
Where does the population of concern live?
Mostly in urban settings.
- Asylum seekers: Refugees from the North of Central America access the Mexican territory via the southern border and apply for asylum in towns in the south of Mexico. Others access the territory by air (for example, Venezuelans). Refugees live throughout the country, many in Mexico City and other cities in southern, central and northern states within Mexico.
The number of asylum claims in 2019 (Jan-Oct) is 62,299, an increase of 196%, compared with the same period in 2018.
- Refugees: Refugees live throughout the country, many in Mexico City and other cities in southern, central and northern states within Mexico.
73% of all asylum claims in 2019 (Jan-Oct) were made in two southern border states in Mexico (Chiapas and Tabasco).
Find live data, information and fact sheets on the refugee situation in Mexico on the UNHCR Operational Portal as well as Global Focus.
2. Mexico's response to the refugee situation
An overview of how the Government has structured its ability to respond to the refugee situation, with the support of partners.
Mexico has a strong national legal and institutional framework to protect asylum seekers and refugees. Mexico's law concerning refugees and asylum incorporates the broader definition of "refugee" found in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, including gender as one of the causes of persecution in the definition of ‘refugee’. If an individual does not qualify for refugee status under this extended definition, Mexico's Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) may grant complementary protection, preventing cases of possible returns of individuals to a country where their life would be in danger.
Mexico is one of seven countries participating in the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS in Spanish) since the initiative was adopted in October 2017 as a regional contribution to the Global Compact on Refugees. Mexico’s National Action Plan for MIRPS has been key in promoting the protection and successful integration of asylum-seekers and refugees in Mexico. COMAR, which is part of the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for the asylum procedure and promotes collaboration between different institutions through interinstitutional roundtables and specialized committees. These also include international organizations and civil society. These mechanisms were strengthened from 2018 onwards as a follow-up measure to the national MIRPS commitments.
Two examples of intra-government mechanisms stand out:
- The Interinstitutional Roundtable on Refuge and Complementary Protection: it brings together more than 20 participants and was specifically created to follow up on commitments made under the MIRPS. The roundtable involves key government actors from the sectors of social affairs, education, employment, and health. In 2018, this Roundtable agreed on the creation of the Temporary CURP (Unique Population Registry Code) for asylum seekers.
- In parallel, a Commission for the Protection of Migrant and Asylum-seeking Children was tasked with the design and implementation of programs and policies to address the protection needs of this specific population group. An interinstitutional referral pathway for the protection of refugee and migrant children based on “best interest of the child” (BID) procedure was approved and will be promoted for implementation at the local level.
Which partnerships have been strengthened or have been made possible thanks to the implementation of the Global Compact of Refugees?
Mexico’s Presidency pro tempore of the MIRPS in 2019 focused on the promotion of shared responsibility. This included strengthening of partnerships with regional and sub-regional mechanisms and with actors supporting the MIRPS.As examples, dialogue mechanisms with civil society were discussed in the context of the Second Annual MIRPS Meeting held in Mexico City in November 2019), during which a strategy to mobilize resources and funds for humanitarian assistance was agreed upon – including through the organization of a MIRPS Solidarity Event to be held with potential donors and development actors prior to the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.
At the level of national implementation, UN agencies and civil society organizations were brought in as observers in the Interinstitutional Roundtable on Refuge and Complementary Protection (consisting of 20 different government actors). As priorities for 2020, the Mexican government announced the creation of specialized working groups on health, education, identity and employment (that also include UN agencies and NGOs), as well as working groups that can bring MIRPS closer to the local level.
Specific projects implemented by the Mexican government, UNHCR and civil society partners are underway, such as the strengthening of COMAR’s capacity through technical and financial assistance. This program has also been supported by the US and Canada asylum offices (SCIS, IRB and IRCC). The second program, “alternatives to detention in INM Migration Stations” is a labour integration program that relocates asylum seekers and refugees from southern Mexico towards central and northern town with better perspectives for formal employment and socioeconomic integration.
The Inter-institutional Roundtable on Refuge and Complementary Protection comprises the following Ministries: the Ministry of the Interior (COMAR, National Migration Institute, National Population Registry, Council for the Prevention of Discrimination), the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Child Protection Authorities, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Secretariat of Labor and Social Security, Banking and Securities Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF, WHO, and national NGOs.
3. Steps towards meeting the objectives of the Compact
How partnerships working in education, livelihoods, health and social inclusion have already transformed the lives of refugees and their hosts
The Government of Mexico has taken the following steps to meet objectives 1 and 2 of the Global Compact on Refugees:
In working towards achieving objective 1 of the GCR, to ease pressures on host countries has taken the following measures:
Following the recommendations of the Quality Asylum Initiative (QAI), the Government has sought to improve the asylum procedure by creating a Protection Registry area within COMAR. This is to guarantee access to procedures and to improve efficiency in the reception and registry phases
Permanent COMAR presence was established in three new locations (Palenque in the south, Monterrey, and Tijuana in the north), ensuring a presence on the ground where reception is actually taking place. COMAR has also established a Registration Centre in Tapachula (in the south, near the border with Guatemala) a state that receives 65% of all asylum claims, enhancing COMAR’s registration capacity, eliminating waiting lists, and facilitating access to all documentation needed to register on the same day. COMAR has also implemented simplified Refugee Status Determination procedures to improve efficiency to manage the increase of claims in the country. To illustrate this enhanced system, in 2018, COMAR registered 29,600 claims, while in the first 10 months of 2019 (January to October), it had already registered 62,299 claims.
Since July 2016, COMAR has established the Alternatives to Detention in Migration Stations for Asylum Seekers programme, in collaboration with the National Migration Institute (INM) and UNHCR.The program allows asylum seekers who are released from INM stations to stay in shelters managed by civil society partners. In 2019, 8,277 asylum seekers were released and granted a provisional INM document as a Visitor with Permission to Perform Remunerated Activities.
In working towards achieving objective 2 of the GCR, the following measures have been taken:
A temporary version of the Unique Population Registry Key (CURP) was created to facilitate access for asylum-seekers to employment opportunities and public services, such as schools and medical insurance. CURP already existed in its permanent version as an official identification for Mexicans and foreigners that have permanent residency in Mexico. Temporary CURP is valid for 180 or 360 days and can be replaced by permanent CURP when refugee status is recognized and refugees obtain permanent residency. Before the creation of a temporary version, it was challenging for asylum seekers to access public services, employment and financial services. Now that temporary CURP are issued to asylum seekers, it helps them access basic rights and facilitates local integration.
The labour integration program, through which people are relocated from the south of the country, where integration opportunities are limited, to municipalities with better prospects, has proven to be a successful. At the beginning of the project in 2016, only persons recognized as refugees were considered. However, since 2019, vulnerable asylum seekers or those interviewed by COMAR are also being relocated so they can access the formal labour market until the status determination procedure is finalized. The number of people that benefitted from this programme were 3,833 between January and 15 October 2019.