To meet a 195% increase in asylum applications this year, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (Comar) will have a budget approved by Members of just over 47 million pesos, almost three times less than the 124 million requested by the Commission to operate in 2020.
And, originally, the budget was even smaller: 27 million. But at the last minute, Members granted an extension of another 20 million pesos in the early morning last Thursday, of which ten will be for «personal services» and the other 10 for «operating expenses» of the Comar.
Find out: Robberies, abuse of authority and extortion: Data on violence experienced by migrants in Mexico
Andrés Silva, owner of the Comar, admitted that the money approved by the legislators «is not the ideal budget, nor is it what we request», especially considering that this 2019 is going to close being the year in which the record of applications for refuge in Mexico was broken, and that the projections for 2020 is that the record will be broken again this year.
However, the official also stressed that the 47 million pesos labelled represent a «substantial increase» compared to the Commission’s budget for this year. Yes, according to official figures, Comar’s budget increased 127% by 2020.
In addition, Silva explained in an interview with Political Animal that, to those 47 million pesos approved in congress, another 15 million 362 thousand pesos can be added when the Southern Border Commission makes effective the transfer of 34 staff, who will become part of the staff of the Comar.
So, in total, the Commission can have 62 million 360 thousand pesos by next year, plus the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which will provide staff, technical advice and training.
«It’s not the whole budget we’d asked for. But it does give us greater scope to operate on better terms than other years,» said Silva, who said that of the 124 million they initially requested, 34 million were to address Mexico’s forced internal displacement problem, and the remaining 90 million to meet requests for shelter from foreigners.
All-time application record
However, Silva was cautious during the interview about this budget increase, since, on the other side of the equation, the increase in asylum and shelter applications also skyrocketed, and in proportions even greater than the budget.
According to official figures, between January and October of this year the Comar received the application of 62 thousand 299 people seeking refuge in Mexico.
This figure reflects an increase of 195% compared to the same period in 2018; year that, until now, had the record.
To size the increase in applications this 2019 is enough to be a factor: in July last year, the Comar received one thousand 827 applications. In July of this year 8 thousand 670 were received; 374% more.
And another fact: in July of this year, that is, in a single month, there were more applications for shelter in Mexico than in all of 2013, 2014 and 2015, together.
«From January to July this year, month by month the application record was breaking,» said Andrés Silva, who said they expect to finish this year with up to 70,000 applications for shelter, an absolute record. While, for the next year, although there are many variables that cannot be predicted, such as situations of political and social conflicts in Latin America and the world, the estimate is even higher: 85 thousand requests for refuge.
These record numbers of applications also logically resulted in the increased workload of Comar staff, to meet each case of shelter application.
The Commission therefore admitted that it still has lagging cases in 2017 and 2018, while this year 69% of applications (43 thousand 053), i.e. almost 7 out of 10, are suspended or still pending.
The Delegation of Chiapas, on the southern border of Mexico and a natural gateway for thousands of migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America, is the one that accumulates the largest number of pending applications this 2019, with 23,167 cases, 77% of the total applications that are pending in the country.
But, on the other hand, compared to past years the rate of ‘positive’ applications increased, that is, they concluded with the recognition of the person as a refugee.
The most significant case is that of Honduras, one of the countries of the most people currently fleeing because of its high rates of violence: in 2017, the rate of positive cases in Mexico was just 27%. In 2019, the rate climbed to 70%.
El Salvador, other countries that historically single more migrants are expelling from Central America for violence and insecurity, went from having a positive shelter case rate of 38% in 2017, to a 56% rate this year.
While, in the case of Guatemala, the other country that completes the Northern Triangle of Central America, the increase in positives has been slower: from 27% in 2017 to 35% this year.
In total, of the five nationalities that made the most applications for refuge from Mexico in 2019 and that have already been resolved – Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, in that order with 7,581 applications – 87% of cases ended with the recognition of refugee status, or with the implementation of complementary protection measures.
«It’s been a very complex year»
In an interview, Andrés Silva was questioned which factors may explain the increase in shelter applications in Mexico this 2019.
«It has been a very intense year in immigration and of a lot of complexity,» said the federal official, who said that, beyond the remarkable increase in numbers, multiple factors have contributed to making Mexico’s immigration and shelter landscape much more complex this year.
One is that the number of women and children and adolescents seeking refuge increased. In fact, Silva noted that up to 71% of this year’s applications are from this group of people, which further complicates the situation, since minors require special protective measures and specialized personnel to address them.
Another factor is that, unlike years past, where nearly 90% of shelter applications were made by people in the Northern Triangle of Central America, nationalities now diversified.
«This year we have 70 different nationalities in the order of shelter, including people from Asia and Africa, especially from Cameroon, who with 360 applications begin to gain some relevance compared to previous years,» Silva said, adding that applications from Caribbean countries such as Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela also increased.
And another important factor that further complicated the picture, the Comar’s headline posed, was the donald Trump administration’s unilateral decision to return asylum seekers to Mexico, to wait here for the duration of their process in the United States, in what became known as the program ‘Remain in Mexico’ (Stay in Mexico).
«Now we don’t just have to be on our backline, but we also have to look north, where historically people when they got there weren’t interested in applying for refuge from Mexico, but crossing into the United States,» Silva said.
«And that adds one more element of complexity to us, because we have to be aware of whether there can also be people in the north interested in applying for shelter in Mexico, because they’ve already tired of waiting for their process in the United States to finish.»
In addressing these factors, Andrés Silva stressed the importance of working with UNHCR, unlike in previous years, when the participation of the UN refugee agency was more limited.
The owner of the Comar said that UNHCR currently supports with technical advice to simplify procedures in asylum applications, with training courses in human rights and shelter in the Offices of the Comar, and with staff and facilities.
On the latter point, Silva explained that three other UNHCR spaces were joined by the four Comar delegations throughout the country in Tijuana, Monterrey and Palenque. Although these spaces, for now, are more of assistance and support, since UNHCR staff do not have the legal power to sign resolutions in asylum procedures.
«UNHCR’s support is limited that its staff does not have these legal powers, but it is still a very important support for us and for the refugees,» stressed the Comar’s holder.
What we do in Animal Político requires professional journalists, teamwork, dialogue with readers and something very important: independence. You can help us keep going. Be part of the team.
Subscribe to Animal Politician, receive benefits and support free journalism.#YoSoyAnimal