Operation: Opération: Mexico



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Key Figures

2020 year-end figures
53,624 people from the north of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras received cash assistance to meet basic needs
52,006 people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras received legal assistance
41,300  people applied for asylum in Mexico in 2020
16,231  people have been registered since mid-March 2020 and had a remote protection interview with UNHCR to identify specific needs and provide individualized protection counselling
2,306 refugees and asylum-seekers from cities in southern Mexico were successfully relocated to municipalities with higher demand for workers 90,000 children were supported with school material during 2020
1,274 Venezuelan refugees and asylum-seekers received local support to integrate in different parts of Mexico
870 Venezuelan children were enrolled into school thanks to cash assistance
2021 planning figures
20,000 individuals to be relocated in different parts of Mexico
80% people of concern will have access to legal assistance 
75% of refugees and asylum-seekers will achieve social and economic integration
70% of applicants will benefit from refugee status determination procedure

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 284,756
2019 291,708
2018 165,506


[["Refugees",45469],["Asylum-seekers",83792],["Stateless",13],["Others of concern",73635],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",81847]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[12.51904304,14.73228739,24.309789260000002,60.56551769,65.2122286,74.2436933],"expenditure":[6.736627230000001,9.61744232,16.91172776,52.369899700000005,40.44268586,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[12.51904304,14.73228739,24.309789260000002,60.56551769,65.2122286,74.2436933],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[6.736627230000001,9.61744232,16.91172776,52.369899700000005,40.44268586,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

The exponential growth of asylum claims in Mexico has posed multiple challenges to the country’s asylum system, and the pandemic further aggravated existing complexities. In 2020, COMAR has registered 41,303 asylum claims, 58% of the total claims registered in 2019, but substantially higher that 2018 when COMAR registered 29,600 claims Despite the restrictions emanating from the pandemic, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) remained operational and registered new asylum claims to process them remotely.
The pandemic severally affected the Mexican economy and limited economic prospects for refugees. As many faced difficulties in covering their essential needs, UNHCR adapted its cash assistance programme to reach more people in need. A health protocol was jointly designed by UNHCR and WHO/PAHO to facilitate the implementation of the relocation, job placement and local integration programme. It also helped mitigate contagion risks when assisting beneficiaries.
Additionally, UNHCR strengthened cooperation with local health service providers who received PPE and medical supplies in many of the principal host communities. Hygiene supplies provided to shelters mitigated health concerns related to the spread of the disease. Children in the main host communities also received school supplies.

Population trends

By the end of 2020, Mexico hosted 129,261 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of the 41,300 asylum claims filed in Mexico were of nationals from Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Due to the pandemic, mobility and displacement trends of the population of concern to UNHCR reported a sudden decrease during the second and third quarters of the year (from 40% until March, to 8% and 17% from April to September). Figures reached 33% during the last quarter of 2020.
Likewise, the arrival of women, girls, and female adolescents in Mexico decreased during 2020 (38%), in comparison with 2019 (42%). 

Key achievements

  • UNHCR significantly scaled up its support to COMAR through secondment of 146 staff, technical assistance, and training.
  • UNHCR moved its registration processing in 18 locations to remote modalities. Improved remote interviewing methodologies allowed UNHCR and partners to register 28,264 refugees and asylum seekers, with nearly 60% identified specific needs
  • 3,000 dignity kits were delivered in 50 shelters, and training on gender-based violence and prevention of exploitation and abuse was provided to 1,571 people.
  • Expanded interventions and conducted monitoring in 105 shelters throughout the country
  • UNHCR’s advocacy led to the inclusion of the population of concern to UNHCR in the national health system. A health task force was established and coordinated support to the health system in main host communities.
  • UNHCR supported 2,038 asylum seekers and refugees to participate in vocational training recognized by the Ministries of Education, Labour, and the National Employment Service, while another 50 individuals received support for skills certification to improve opportunities to find a job.
  • Unrestricted cash assistance programme was complemented with emergency cash, to allow flexible access and ensure coverage for pressing needs. Also, remote delivery of cards was implemented in case of people affected with COVID or living in highly affected areas.
  • Through a consultative process with communities, prioritized 35 projects to bolster peaceful coexistence.  

Unmet needs

UNHCR’s operation in Mexico was funded 83% by the end of 2020.
  • Legal aid and representation for asylum seekers in detention remains a challenge that has been aggravated during the pandemic, as in 2020 a relatively low number of people of concern to UNHCR in detention received legal aid (1,755 people)
  • Additional support was required in refugee-receiving communities in south Mexico, where the pandemic exacerbated poverty.
  • The backlog of asylum applications and the inability to track pending cases is a problem related to filing and processes within COMAR, with UNHCR supporting COMAR in developing and implementing a new refugee database to facilitate and improve procedures.
  • With the restrictions of movement and limitations due to the pandemic, prioritized peaceful coexistence projects could not be fully implemented and activities to promote the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in their host communities were delayed, affecting planned contributions and activities to support both population groups. 

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding) 

  • Flexible use of funds allowed UNHCR Mexico to quickly reprioritize activities in order to respond since the onset of the pandemic with remote registration services and expanded cash support programmes.
  • Overall expansion of the operation and of UNHCR’s physical presence to a total of 17 locations across Mexico, while also providing timely response and preventive measures in the context of COVID-19.
  • Extending the scope of programmes available to people in the country, through the following practice areas: legal aid, improvement of reception conditions, local integration, cash assistance and education.

Working environment

Mexico’s geographical position makes it a country with mixed, dynamic and complex migration and displacement flows. Mexico is increasingly viewed as a country of destination rather than of transit. More people, mainly from Central America, are expressing their intention to remain in Mexico, seeking international protection and, once recognized as refugees, eventually integrating in the country.
While the protection space in Mexico is expected to improve, the number of asylum-seekers will most likely increase, due to the situation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in addition to the unresolved political crises in Nicaragua and Venezuela. Other reasons Mexico is increasingly viewed as a destination country include that prospects for formal employment and local integration are good in specific parts of the country.
In 2020, UNHCR will follow closely the situation at the border with the United States of America, including the implementation and effects of the US Migrant Protection Protocols.
UNHCR hopes that Mexico’s temporary leadership of the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (known regionally as MIRPS), coupled with the comprehensive development plan under development with the North of Central America countries, will lead to a more coordinated response to the causes of forced displacement from Central America, and bolster the humanitarian and asylum response.

Key priorities

UNHCR’s “Multi-year, multi-partner protection and solutions strategy” is aligned to the regional implementation of MIRPS and includes four strategic directions: access to the territory, immediate and basic needs, support for host communities, and durable solutions.
The MYMP is designed to ensure a transition from humanitarian assistance to self-reliance, socio-economic inclusion and full integration of people of concern in government services and programmes where necessary.
UNHCR will continue to support the Government of Mexico as it strengthens its asylum system, and it will stimulate the expansion of reception, protection and local integration spaces. This includes projects benefiting host communities in Southern Mexico, including programmes seeking to strengthen access to public services in Chiapas and Tabasco, which will benefit both refugee and host communities. UNHCR will continue providing humanitarian assistance, namely cash-based initiatives, to asylum-seekers awaiting the documentation needed to allow them to be officially employed. It will also strengthen its local integration and relocation programme, which aims to place people of concern in safer and more prosperous parts of the country.
UNHCR will assist the Mexican Refugee Commission, known as COMAR, which aims to expand its regional presence by opening new offices in key locations and improving its internal procedures to ensure a fair and efficient refugee status determination procedure. It is expected that COMAR will receive 69,700 new asylum applications in 2020 and will have the capacity to process them. 
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 22-NOV-2021
    United States of America

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  • Japan

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  • 18-NOV-2021

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  • Argentina
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  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2021
  • 11-NOV-2021
  • Angola
  • 09-NOV-2021
  • 08-NOV-2021
  • Hungary