MEXICO- The number of asylum claims by Haitians in Mexico is expected to rise to over 50,000 this year, further straining the country’s migrant services as many contemplate a future there rather than in the United States.
A record 13,631 people applied for refugee status in the first quarter of this year, dwarfing claims from other countries and compared to the 17,153 applications received in all of 2022, according to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR).
“If the current trend continues, it surely would exceed the level reached in 2021,” when a record 52,000 sought asylum, COMAR’s Andres Ramirez said, noting that he did not know why the numbers had risen so much.
According to officials in Mexico City, some 400 Haitians were moved last week from an informal camp in a city plaza to a new shelter on the outskirts of the capital.
The increase may be explained in part by a tightening of U.S. border controls in January that has made it more difficult for migrants to cross by land, as well as a parallel program that allows Haitians to cross by air on a monthly basis.
Without sponsors or having crossed irregularly into Mexico or the United States, Haitians would be unable to qualify for the latter program, leaving them stranded.
Additionally, most Haitians claiming asylum in Mexico do not qualify for asylum because they left their homes years ago due to economic reasons. If they are rejected, they will be placed in irregular status and face deportation.
‘I WANT TO STAY HERE A BIT’
The majority of Haitians arrive in Mexico from Chile and Brazil, where they resettled after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, but have been leaving in recent years due to bureaucratic, economic, and cultural obstacles.
Despite spending six years in Chile, Kelly Val, 31, and his wife Mikelange Joseph, 30, left the country in January with Cristina, his nine-month-old Chilean daughter.
“I want to stay here a bit, maybe a couple years, to see how it goes,” said Val, who would like to work in the United States but has struggled to schedule an appointment to request asylum using a U.S. government app.
Val said the family liked Chile, but left when Mikelange could not obtain migration papers after joining him in 2021.
Before moving to the new shelter in the Tlahuac borough, the family spent one week in Giordano Bruno plaza. Their journey from Chile took them through the Panamanian jungle, where Cristina caught an infection she is fighting.
Approximately 900 migrants petitioned the city to open the new shelter, according to Gabriela Hernandez, director of Casa Tochan.
“They have been arriving at our shelters, but we’re full,” said Hernandez.
Before leaving Tlahuac for Reynosa, Joines Exil, 23, received a 45-day permit to stay in Mexico.
After eight years in Chile, he left in February because inflation made it harder for him to send money home.
“It seems like every day that passes, things change a lot,” Exilsaid about border policies.
“But when you have a dream you have to continue on.”