Repatriation to Guatemala

Briefing Notes, 25 June 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 June 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday, 24 June, the last organized repatriation movement took place of a group of Guatemalan refugees going home from Mexico. A total of 167 refugees left the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas to return home. They are going back to the departments of Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango.

This last group repatriation brought to around 43,000 the number of Guatemalan refugees who have returned home from Mexico with the help of UNHCR and of the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR). UNHCR has invested $28 million in repatriation and reintegration programmes for this group within Guatemala.

Guatemalan refugees began arriving in Mexico in 1982, fleeing the civil conflict in their country. Around 45,000 arrived between 1982 and 1984.

Those refugees who did not wish to return home have been able to become permanent residents of Mexico or to apply for Mexican citizenship, thanks to the government 1996 programme called the "Migratory Stabilization Plan for Guatemalan Refugees." Close to 23,000 refugees have decided to take advantage of the option to stay in Mexico and to integrate locally. (The number of returnees plus those settled locally is higher than arrivals because of birth rate.)

Some refugees have already obtained Mexican citizenship. Today there will be another naturalization ceremony today in Campeche, in the settlement of Los Laureles, where another nearly 200 refugees will receive their citizenship papers, bringing to around 1,200 the number of refugees who have become Mexican citizens.