Operation: Opération: Mexico



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Key Figures

2019 year-end figures
48,000 people of concern to UNHCR were registered in ProGres and received individual counselling
42,900 individuals benefited from cash transfers to cover basic needs such as food and household items
9,900  asylum-seekers benefited from the “release from detention programme”, 26% of whom were children
5,200 refugees and asylum-seekers received integration support through relocation to four cities in central and northern Mexico
4,500 people received information and guidance on accessing rights through a UNHCR helpline
380 visits were carried out by UNHCR to detention centers throughout the country and some 7,940 detainees were registered and had their cases followed individually
200 secondees were provided to COMAR, doubling its registration capacity
2020 planning figures
75% of social and economic integration is realized
70% of applicants can benefit from the status determination procedure
60% of people of concern access legal assistance
30,000 people will receive information regarding the asylum procedure and other options

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2019 291,708
2018 165,506
2017 19,398


[["Refugees",28533],["Asylum-seekers",69470],["Stateless",13],["Others of concern",140710],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",52982]]
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2019 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[12.51904304,14.73228739,24.309789260000002,60.56551769,65.2122286,61.48169345],"expenditure":[6.736627230000001,9.61744232,16.91172776,52.369899700000005,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[12.51904304,14.73228739,24.309789260000002,60.56551769,65.2122286,61.48169345],"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,null,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

Operational context

The initial open and human rights-based migration policy, adopted by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador when he took office in early 2019, was challenged as a result of regional dynamics and a series of policies from the United States of America aimed at reducing irregular migration. Although Mexico declined to negotiate a safe third country agreement with the United States of America, it nevertheless increased its control over movements of migrants and asylum-seekers by deploying the National Guard, increasing incidents of detention and returns.
Separately Mexico also acknowledged internal displacement within the country and began adapting its legal and institutional framework to address it.
Mixed movements from countries in the north of Central America, as well as from Cuba, Haiti, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and other countries, towards Mexico continued in 2019, and asylum claims increased considerably.

Despite efforts to support the Government, the capacity of the National Refugee Commission (COMAR) to undertake quality refugee status determination (RSD) remained limited and given the rise in asylum applications in Mexico, the backlog in asylum decisions increased.

Population trends

Some 70,400 individuals applied for asylum in Mexico in 2019, a 195% increase from 2018, with an average of 5,900 applications per month.

Almost 90% of applications were filed by nationals of Honduras (43%); El Salvador (13%); Cuba (12%); the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (11%); and Haiti (8%). Some 43% of applicants were female, and children accounted for 26% of applicants.


  • UNHCR strengthened its response in border and main receiving areas as a result of expanded operations in Aguascalientes, Ciudad Juárez, Guadalajara, Mexicali, Monterrey, Palenque, Querétaro and Tijuana.
  • Registration capacity improved in Tapachula with a new centre serving up to 6,000 people per month. The registration period was reduced from eight weeks to a single day.
  • UNHCR support allowed COMAR to expand its presence to Monterrey, Palenque and Tijuana.
  • A detailed assessment of 60 shelters was conducted to identify capacities and needs.

Unmet needs

  • The operation was funded at 92% by the end of 2019.
  • Access to quality legal representation remained a challenge, particularly in detention centers, which in turn limited access to the asylum procedure and disincentivized the filing of claims.
  • UNHCR continued to urge the Mexican authorities to adapt and translate UNHCR interventions into public policies.

Working Environment

The root causes of forced displacement remain unaddressed and a significant number of people fleeing violence in the North of Central America (NCA) continue to enter Mexico. A greater number of people are likely to stay in Mexico to apply for asylum, in particular in urban areas. With a new administration having taking office on 1 December 2018, changes in policy might have an impact on UNHCR’s operational footprint in 2019.
Mexico is a CRRF roll-out country, and in this regard the Government has committed to implement high standards of protection and innovative solutions for refugees. This includes strengthening the refugee status determination (RSD) procedure based on international standards and new offices  of the Mexican Refugee Commission (COMAR) in regions with a high number of asylum claims; developing information campaigns about the right to seek asylum; strengthening the  child protection authorities, and identifying and responding to protection needs of people of concern; promoting dialogue with other Governments in the region; implementing alternatives to detention and; supporting durable solutions, in particular local integration.

Key Priorities

In 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Ensuring that refugees have access to territory, asylum procedures and the full range of rights. This will involve capacity-building targeting Government officials involved in RSD, providing information to people of concern, and seeking full implementation of the quality assurance mechanism;
  • Addressing the increasing number of asylum-seekers in Mexico, by improving reception conditions, strengthening the capacity of partners, and by providing direct assistance through multi-purpose and sectoral  cash-based interventions while refugee claims are being processed, helping to reduce the number of abandoned claims and increasing the number of people receiving refugee status.
  • Implementing activities with the aim of, and advocating for, the inclusion of refugees in the national economy and public programmes and services, and in mobilizing development interventions to support these efforts, including by strengthening networks for reception with shelters, the private sector and local authorities, protection and inclusion in Central and Northern Mexico.  
  • Implementing community-based protection projects to increase the interaction between refugees, asylum-seekers and host communities, to prevent and reduce social tensions and to enable the identification of protection risks and opportunities through community-based networks.
  • Supporting the Government with the CRRF roll-out by strategically aligning UNHCR’s actions to the Government’s commitments, providing technical support, and complementing the Government’s efforts for the protection of people of concern.
  • Expanding UNHCR’s operational footprint by increasing presence in key locations to support the implementation of protection and integration activities.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2020
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2020
  • 23-NOV-2020
    Saudi Arabia

    private donors

  • 19-NOV-2020
  • 18-NOV-2020
  • Japan

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  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2020
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    private donors

  • 16-NOV-2020
  • 13-NOV-2020
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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  • Hungary
  • United States of America

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  • 12-NOV-2020
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  • Sweden
  • Spain
  • 11-NOV-2020
  • Argentina
  • 10-NOV-2020
    United States of America

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