Mexico’s Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) reported that by the end of September 2021, a total of 108,195 asylum applications had been submitted since the start of the year, the highest figure reported by Mexican authorities. Andrés Ramirez, the general coordinator for COMAR highlighted that this figure is already 53.8 percent higher than the previous record figure in 2019 of 70,302 applications. Haitian nationals had submitted the most applications (37,849), surpassing Honduran nationals, (33,578 applications), during the first ten months of 2021. According to UNHCR, the COVID-19 pandemic initially led to a reduction in applications because of movement restrictions and border closures. “However, as countries relaxed their restrictions, application numbers grew.” In 2020, a total of 41,303 applications were made in Mexico.
According to news reports, since the reopening of the US-Mexico border was announced on 15 October 2021, there has been an increase in arrivals of migrants in Mexico border cities such as Tijuana. Jose Garcia, head of migrant shelter “Movimiento Juventud 2000” in Tijuana stated that the number of migrants in the shelter had risen by a third since the announcement was made. However, Garcia also mentioned that there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the reopening: “We have explained to them that the reopening of the border is for people who have papers, a visa, to cross and it’s not a reopening for people to cross and ask for asylum and humanitarian aid” but migrants are not listening to advocates and organisations and do not want to wait. The pandemic, along with an increase in asylum applications in the US, has led to thousands of migrants spending months in Mexico awaiting a response to their applications (see 28 June 2020 and 16 February 2021 USA update on this platform).
In October 2021, reports emerged of a “caravan” of some 3,000 people that set off on foot from Tapachula, Mexico, near the Guatemalan border. Many of the migrants in the “caravan” refused to accept visas offered by the government of Mexico, saying that they distrusted the authorities. On 4 November 2021, the caravan clashed with the Mexican national guard in the state of Chiapas, leaving two injured migrants. According to Luis Garcia, who helped organise the migrant caravan, the migrants “were badly beaten [and] officers tried to surround them with their shields.” Two days earlier, a Cuban national was reportedly shot and killed by Mexico’s police force, close to the area where the caravan subsequently clashed with the National Guard. The National Guard said that a truck on a dirt road had failed to stop despite audio and visual signals requesting the driver to do so and in consequence, one person had been killed and four others injured in the shooting. Mexico’s Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said it had opened an investigation based on a complaint filed by “Pueblos Unidos Migrantes” and that the incident had occurred during the transit of people as part of the migrant caravan in Chiapas.
As previously reported on this platform (see 29 April 2020 Mexico update) Mexico–unlike many other countries–did not suspend deportation operations after onset of the pandemic. In recent weeks, there have been several mass deportations. On 6 October 2021, Mexico deported some 130 Haitian nationals to their country. This operation was the second conducted to Haiti this year from Mexico, following the deportation of a first group of Haitian nationals on 29 September 2021. The National Migration Institute (INM) said that the first group was part of an “assisted voluntary return” operation. However, during the second deportation, the INM referred to the operation as a “return of migrants.”
Amnesty International has called on both the United States and Mexico to halt the deportation of Haitian nationals stating that states cannot return people to places where their life or liberty may be in danger. (According to Amnesty International, applications for international protection by Haitian nationals in Mexico have a 50 percent recognition rate, whilst applications by Venezuelan and Honduran nationals have rates of 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively.)
On 12 October 2021, Mexico expelled 101 Guatemalan minors and another 60 adults who were arrested on 7 October, to Tapachula, Chiapas, Villahermosa and Tabasco to deport them to their home countries. In total, 652 migrants, including 197 minors, were moved to the State Public Security Facility of the City of Victoria. The INM issued a communication in which it declared the facility as an immigration detention centre (“estacion migratoria”), for 48 hours. During two days, the migrants were provided with food and medical care while the INM carried out procedures to effectuate deportations. In addition, six adults and three minors tested positive for COVID-19 and were transferred to hospital until they can be deported. The reformed Migration Law (Ley de Migración) which entered into force on 11 January 2021 does not permit the detention of minors. Nonetheless, in this case, minors were held in an improvised detention centre until their transfer. According to Karina Leijka Cruz, the Ombudsman for the Protection of Children and Family of the National System for Integral Family Development (DIF) of Tamaulipas (Procuradora de Protección de Niñas, Niños, Adolescentes y Familia del DIF de Tamaulipas), 30 officials from the DIF were present to evaluate the children; the children were separated from the rest of the group in an “adapted” area; and were given priority to being transferred to the south.
- G. Lepri, “Twitter Post,” 3 November 2021, https://twitter.com/giolepri/status/1455965622421102593/photo/1
- L. Diaz, “Spurred by Reopening, More Migrants Head for U.S.-Mexico Border,” Reuters, 7 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/spurred-by-reopening-more-migrants-head-us-mexico-border-2021-11-07/
- Reuters, “Migrants Injured After Clashes with National Guard Troops in Southern Mexico,” 4 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/migrants-injured-after-clashes-with-national-guard-troops-southern-mexico-2021-11-04/
- Telesurtv, “México Con Récord de Peticiones de Migrantes Como Refugiados,” 3 November 2021, https://www.telesurtv.net/news/mexico-record-peticiones-migrantes-refugiados-20211103-0027.html
- CNN, “La Frontera Entre México y EE.UU. Reabre Después de 20 Meses de Cierre por COVID-19,” 8 November 2021, https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2021/11/08/la-frontera-entre-mexico-y-ee-uu-reabre-despues-de-20-meses-de-cierre-por-covid-19/
- L. Diaz & J. Torres, “Migrant Caravan Limps North Through Mexico, Despite Dengue and Exhaustion,” Reuters, 2 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/migrant-caravan-limps-north-through-mexico-despite-dengue-exhaustion-2021-11-01/
- Reuters, “Mexico’s National Guard Kills Cuban Migrant, Wounds Four Others as Caravan Advances,” 2 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/mexicos-national-guard-kills-cuban-migrant-wounds-four-others-caravan-advances-2021-11-02/
- Deutsche Welle, “Amnistía Internacional Exigió a Estados Unidos y México Frenar Deportaciones de Haitianos,” 28 October 2021, https://www.dw.com/es/amnist%C3%ADa-internacional-exigi%C3%B3-a-estados-unidos-y-m%C3%A9xico-frenar-deportaciones-de-haitianos/a-59657396
- Deutsche Welle, “México Envía a Haití Segundo Vuelo con Migrantes Deportados,” 7 October 2021, https://www.dw.com/es/m%C3%A9xico-env%C3%ADa-a-hait%C3%AD-segundo-vuelo-con-migrantes-deportados/a-59433328
- A. Pradilla, “México Expulsa a Guatemala a 101 Menores No Acompañados Detenidos en Trailers en Tamaulipas,” Animal Político, 12 October 2021, https://www.animalpolitico.com/2021/10/mexico-expulsa-guatemala-menores-no-acompanados-detenidos-tamaulipas/
- Migrants Walking as they Take Part in Caravan Heading to Mexico City on 1 November 2021 (Daniel Becceril, “Migrant Caravan Limps North Through Mexico, Despite Dengue and Exhaustion,” Reuters, 2 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/migrant-caravan-limps-north-through-mexico-despite-dengue-exhaustion-2021-11-01/)