Mexico on track to break asylum application record

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico is on track to receive more asylum applications this year than ever before as the flow of migrants threatens to overwhelm governments of several Latin American countries along the migratory route.

Andrés Ramírez Silva, the director of Mexico’s refugee agency, said Thursday that the number of asylum applications his agency receives this year could reach 150,000, well above the 129,000 record set in 2021.

“Effectively we have a pace that is very above what we have in our record year that was 2021,” Ramírez Silva said. If that pace continues he predicted they could reach 150,000 by year’s end. Through August they already had 100,000 – 25% above the same period in 2021 -- more than half at Mexico’s shared border with Guatemala.

The demand has been so much that on Wednesday some migrants got unruly during the wait and pushed their way into the agency’s offices. That led Ramírez Silva to request help controlling the crowds from the National Guard.

On Thursday, National Guard troops in riot gear stood outside the agency’s office in Tapachula, which in recent weeks has been taking about 2,000 asylum applications daily.

Last Friday, Panamanian authorities announced they would increase deportations and build new facilities near the border with Colombia to hold migrants separate from the small communities that receive them. Panama has said that more than 350,000 migrants have already crossed the Darien Gap along their shared border with Colombia this year, a number that already shattered last year’s record of fewer than 250,000.

In Tapachula, Mikel Pérez of Cuba said Thursday that because of the roughness of the crowd outside the refugee office he had decided to come alone Thursday to wait his turn rather than risk bringing his two children into the scrum.

Pérez, who is trying to make his way to the United States, said that he had seen other migrants faint while waiting in the intense tropical sun after eating poorly and sleeping outside for days.

Daniela González, also from Cuba, was traveling with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. “We just want to resolve the paperwork, but calmly, without problems,” she said. “But yesterday it got ugly here and we didn’t come.”

She and her family left Cuba because they couldn’t make enough to live. They made it here to Mexico a week ago and looked for a way to regularize their status and continue moving, but found that the offices were overwhelmed.

Many migrants apply for asylum in Mexico as a way to regularize their status while they continue to try to make their way north to the U.S. border.

Ramírez Silva said Cubans, Haitians and Hondurans have made up about 80% of the asylum applications that the Tapachula office has received. He said his agency had asked the federal government for more resources to expand its capacity.

“Through August and September the numbers that have arrived to this Laureles site where the people solicit asylum have increased in a really drastic way,” he said.