Detention of Asylum Seekers in Mexico

By Kuhner, Gretchen | Refuge, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Detention of Asylum Seekers in Mexico


Kuhner, Gretchen, Refuge


Abstract

Mexico ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol in April 2000. While Regulations establishing a mechanism for eligibility determination were issued at the same time, the Mexican government began a transitional process to take over eligibility in March 2002. Prior to that time, the UNHCR had been recognizing refugees under its mandate. As of this writing no national policy regarding the detention of asylum seekers has been established, nor have refugee advocates begun to pressure the government to comply with Article 31 of the Convention. Rather, whether an asylum seeker is detained during the eligibility process depends in part on the place and timing of the request as well as on the knowledge and goodwill of the migration authority.

Resume

Le Mexique a ratifie la Convention des Nations Unies relative an statut des refugees et le Protocole de 1967 an mois d'avril 2000. Alors que des reglements etablissant un mecanisme pour determiner Padmissibilte ont ete emis an meme moment, le gouvernement mexicain a mis en place un processus transitionnel visant d prendre en charge Padmissibilite en mars 2002. Jusqu'd cette date, c'etait la HCR qui, comme partie de son mandat, s'occupait de la reconnaissance du statut de refugee. A fheure de la redaction du present article, une politique nationale de detention des refugees n'avait pas encore ete etablie, et les defenseurs des refugees n'avaient pas non plus commence d faire pression sur le gouvernement pour qu'il se conformed Particle 31 de la Convention. An contraire, qu'un refugee soit Menu on non durant le processus d'admissibilite depend en partie du lieu et de fheure de la demande, aussi bien que du niveau de connaissance et de la bonne volonte de (agent de (immigration.

I. Introduction

The situation for asylum seekers in detention in Mexico at the time of this writing is in turmoil due to procedural changes in the asylum process that began in March 2002. These changes are a result of the government's new policy of adjudicating asylum claims, rather than accepting the eligibility determinations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This is the first such procedural modification since the UNHCR signed an accord de siege with the Mexican government in October 1982 and began recognizing refugees under its mandate. It represents the Mexican government's commitment to begin implementing the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol ratified in April 2000 as well as the Regulations to the General Law on Population (Regulations) that were issued at the same time. By bringing asylum procedures into compliance with the existing legal framework, the Mexican government will have the option to continue to detain asylum seekers while their applications are pending or to create a new policy. This article describes the current legal framework for asylum procedures and detention, and follows with a description of the current situation in practice and future challenges.

II. Background

Mexico has a long tradition of providing asylum, most notably to exiles during the Spanish Civil War, to persons fleeing the dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, and to Central American refugees during the 1980s to mid-1990's. This tradition is supported by a comprehensive Mexican asylum framework. For example, Mexican law provides for diplomatic and territorial asylum as well as establishing a separate definition for refugees. (1) Mexico is also a signatory to various regional instruments. (2) In fact, the current definition of refugee contained in the General Law on Population is based on the definition from the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984. (3)

The current asylum situation is marked by a small number of refugees who, in their majority, utilize Mexico as a route to reach other countries. Many of these refugees come from outside the Latin American region, do not speak Spanish, and have been forced to resort to international agents to help them surmount travel restrictions. …

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