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Mexico and its Refugees

By Santiago Corcuera Cabezut, Vice President of the Committee Against Forced Disappearances of the UN


May 4, 2017

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June 20 is International Refugee Day. Globally, the contemporary situation shows an acute crisis. Millions of people now have had to flee and cross the borders of their country of residence by a founded fear of persecution, that could jeopardize their life, freedom or integrity, following wars or massive violations of human rights, widespread violence, or similar situations.

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) released a report stating that there has been an increase of at least 10% in the number of refugees or displaced worldwide last month including our continent.
In Mexico we have had influxes of refugees in different stages of our recent history.

Mexico gave asylum to about 25,000 Spaniards, Jews, among others, in the context of World War II and the Spanish Civil War. They were followed by the Americans of the Southern Cone, victims of the repression of the military dictatorships in the region, they found in Mexico a place where they could rebuild their lives. In the eighties, by internal armed conflicts in Central America, particularly in Guatemala, Mexico was the country of refuge for more than 45 thousand people.

Refugees are always migrants. The refugee is a migrant because he or she crosses the border into a country other than his or her residence but, unlike to other migrants that are not refugees, flees by a founded fear of persecution and does not flee from justice for having committed a common crime, rather because he or she is persecuted for a reason of race, religion, convictions, membership of a particular social group, or generalized violence, armed conflict or massive violations of human rights. And that's why when crossing the border without papers, he or she pleads for not being returned to the place of his or her former residence. The refugee would normally does not know he or she is one of them, but the host country has to have authorities with sufficient sensitivity to recognize it. The recognition of refugee status is a state obligation and refugee law.

Mexico enjoyed a commendable reputation for its long and noble tradition of asylum. In addition, our laws in this area are excellent. Secondary law and constitutional reform promoted by Senator Gabriela Cuevas, which soon will get their declaration in order to be enacted later, reflect the highest international standards in this area. But not enough these laws declare this right, because as the saying goes, "actions speak louder than statements". It is necessary, obligatory, that Mexico make its "current" Law a "living" Law.

Mexico receives thousands of migrants, in which are included, in ever greater numbers, refugees. For the dimension of the crisis, the Mexican authorities should have the ingenuity to facilitate access to the procedure for recognition of refugee status and thus give the protections that condition requires, for example, the right to physical liberty and decent housing even during the recognition process. Then, once recognized his or her refugee status, he or she should receive the means to social integration. Mexico today receives a large number of Salvadoran and Honduran migrants who are actually refugees. The concern is that only half of the nearly 8,000 people that are expected this year to seek asylum in our country will be recognized as refugees. Creativity and nobility is needed, such as Mexico showed in the decades of the thirties and forties, seventies and eighties, with the Spaniards, Argentines and Chileans and Guatemalans, respectively.

Original source :
Date: July 2, 2016

Read in Spanish / Leer en español

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