Mexico tells Ogata it will join the 1951 Refugee Convention

Press Releases, 30 July 1999

The Mexican government will ask the country's senate to ratify the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 Protocol, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today. Mexican Interior and Foreign Ministry officials made the announcement during talks with High Commissioner Sadako Ogata in Mexico City late Thursday.

"This is a historic day in partnership between Mexico and UNHCR and a key step toward UNHCR's effort to achieve universal accession to the refugee convention by the year 2000," said Ogata.

Mexico, Guyana and Cuba are the last three major refugee-hosting countries in the Americas which have not yet acceded to the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol the two legal pillars of refugee protection worldwide.

The announcement came one day after Ogata, accompanied by Mexico's President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon and Guatemala's President Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen officially ended the repatriation programme for tens of thousands of Guatemalan refugees who fled their country at the peak of a 36-year civil war.

"I am proud to have travelled to Campeche to witness the positive end to the programme to help Guatemalan refugees," said Sadako Ogata during a ceremony in Mexico's southern state of Campeche on the Yucatán peninsula.

Ogata praised Guatemala for welcoming the returning refugees and allotting them land to farm, thus easing their reintegration. She also praised Mexico for hosting the refugees and providing those who wished the opportunity to remain and to become Mexican citizens.

Since 1984, more than 42,000 Guatemalan refugees have returned home from Mexico. Some 22,000 have been allowed to stay in the Mexico's southern states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Chiapas.

The Mexican and Guatemalan presidents stressed the positive impact of the resolution of the Guatemalan refugee problem on the peace process in that country, and of the role played by the United Nations.