Rebuilding Refugee Lives in Mexico: Refugee Protection through a Mandatory Asylum Protocol: A Collaboration between The Rights and Opportunities Foundation and Asylum Access November 2019

The Problem:
Thousands of refugees are fleeing organized crime and gang violence in Central America. In fact, the numbers seeking protection are staggering: in 2013, Mexico received just over 3,000 applications for asylum; this year, Mexico is expecting to receive over 80,000.1 We understand why so many are turning to the Mexican asylum system for help. For those that successfully receive refugee status in Mexico, the opportunity to rebuild is real: refugees with status can live safely, move freely and work legally.  While we are pleased that over 80,000 will be able to request asylum in Mexico, this only tells a part of the story. Many refugee families are never able to present an asylum application before being detained and deported.

Between 2015 and 2018, over 500,000 people were deported back to life-threatening situations in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; 117,000 of them were children. Based on our own clientele, Asylum Access estimates that nearly 80% of those deported had a viable claim to asylum. This situation is complicated by the over 81,000 people who are waiting in Mexico for access to the US systems – while they wait, these individuals do not have access to protection, and are also subject to detention and deportation. Indeed, refugees on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala all the way to the northern border with the United States are struggling to access the system that carries the promise of a long-term solution.

The Mexican institutions responsible for this are acting in violation of Mexico’s laws and institutional mandates. Their actions need to be exposed, and solutions need to be found, so that refugee families can begin a process of rebuilding their lives meaningfully within Mexico.

The Solution:
Together with our civil society partners and the Rights and Opportunities Foundation, Asylum Access aims to increase access to asylum and reduce the use of detention and deportation by facilitating the building and rollout of a Mandatory Asylum Protocol in Mexico. A Mandatory Asylum Protocol will clarify the steps all frontline government workers must take to identify and protect asylum seekers, and require they undergo adequate training. In order to ensure the Protocol is effective, Asylum Access and partners will not only support the development of the Protocol, but also its rollout: by soliciting critical buy-in from key government officials and personally delivering high-quality government trainings, we will increase the likelihood the Protocol is practically enabling refugee families to access safety and begin to rebuild their lives.

Through our partnerships with Mexican civil society and The Rights and Opportunities Foundation Asylum Access will:
• Support the development of a Mandatory Asylum Protocol, which will include clear steps for frontline officials for identifying those in need of international protection, expedited guidelines for children, special provisions for those waiting in Mexico for access to US systems and more;
• Build relationships with government officials who can implement the Mandatory Asylum Protocol, including SRE (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) and it’s INM (Instituto de Nacional de Migración), and COMAR (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados); and
• Deliver trainings to COMAR on Child Protection. Then, together with COMAR, deliver Child Protection training to INM. Through these trainings, we can start to promote the Mandatory Asylum Protocol, including specific and expedited protection for children who are in detention and/or facing deportation.

We are optimistic we can make progress toward a Mandatory Asylum Protocol within the next year. The Mexican government has committed to implementing such guidelines both through the Universal Periodic Review and Brazil Plan of Action processes. Furthermore, we have early indication from SRE and COMAR that they are interested in collaborating with Asylum Access and our civil society networks (Grupo Articulador México – Plan de Acción de Brasil, and Grupo de Trabajo Sobre Política Migratoria) in the development and implementation of a Mandatory Asylum Protocol.