Academic journal article Refuge

Fleeing Domestic Violence from a "Safe" Country?: Refugee Determination for Mexican Asylum-Seekers in Canada

Academic journal article Refuge

Fleeing Domestic Violence from a "Safe" Country?: Refugee Determination for Mexican Asylum-Seekers in Canada

Article excerpt


This article presents a mixed-methods study of domestic-violence-related claims for Mexican asylum-seekers in Canada. Although refugee claims that indicate domestic violence are slightly more likely to be approved, the majority of Mexicans seeking protection from domestic violence are denied because they are unable to demonstrate the lack of state protection. Our findings illustrate that Immigration and Refugee Board members' assessment of a claimant's credibility, internal flight alternatives, and the availability of state protection pivot on their perception of Mexico as a "democratic" or "safe" nation. We discuss how cursory attention to the social context of gendered violence in Mexico leaves Mexicans with few legal options for humanitarian migration.


Cet article presente une etude a methodologie mixte des demandes d'asile au Canada reliees a la violence conjugale de la part des Mexicains. Bien que les demandes faisant mention de violence conjugale ont plus de chances d'etre accordees, la plupart des Mexicains reclamant une protection de la violence conjugale sont juges non-admissibles en raison de leur incapacite de demontrer un manque de protection de la part de l'etat. Nos recherches demontrent que l'evaluation de la part des membres de la Commission de l'immigration et du statut de refugie concernant la credibilite des demandeurs, la possibilite de refuge interieur et la disponibilite de protection de la part de l'etat depend de leur perception du Mexique en tant que pays <> ou <>. Nous abordons une discussion sur l'attention insuffisante portee au contexte social de la violence sexospecifique au Mexique qui laisse peu d'options legales aux Mexicains en ce qui concerne la migration pour raisons humanitaires.


This article examines how domestic violence configures into refugee determination for Mexican asylum-seekers in Canada prior to Mexico's official designation as a "safe country of origin." Domestic violence falls under the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada's (IRB) guidelines for "Women refugee claimants fearing gender-related persecution" (herein referred to as the "Gender Guidelines"). Since the Gender Guidelines were first introduced in 1993, there has been a positive trend towards recognizing gender-related persecution in Canada's refugee process. (1) However, legal scholars note limitations within the United Nations framework for determining refugee status for people fleeing gender-related persecution. (2)

Foremost, Arbel and colleagues (3) caution that many women are never seen in the Canadian refugee determination process, because they cannot leave their home country or do not have the means to apply. Increased border controls across North America construct forced migrants as "illegal," further exposing migrant women to structural and interpersonal violence. (4) This is particularly true for Central Americans, who are subject to detention and removal by both the Mexican and U.S. governments. (5)

In this article, we present a case study of refugee claims submitted by Mexican nationals that indicate domestic violence as one reason for seeking protection in Canada. To set the groundwork for our study, we review trends in humanitarian migration from Mexico to Canada. We then discuss the concept of "safe" country in Canadian refugee determination. To contextualize the IRB's assessment of Mexican refugee claims, we reviewed academic and grey literature on violence against women in Mexico, where domestic violence, rape, and femicide are systematically ignored or dismissed. (6) After discussing our research methods, we present an empirical analysis of IRB's assessment rates for Mexican refugee claimants, and key themes that emerged from our analysis of negative decisions written by the IRB members. (7) Our findings illustrate that the availability of state protection from domestic violence pivots on the construction of Mexico as a "safe" nation, despite evidence of escalating violent crimes and impunity across Mexico. …

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