Mexico: land issue to former Guatemalan refugees

Briefing Notes, 5 February 2002

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 5 February 2002, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Mexican state of Quintana Roo this week is issuing a total of 322 land titles to former Guatemalan refugees who recently became Mexican citizens. It marks the first time a state government in Mexico has donated land for former refugees.

UNHCR officials said this very generous policy towards the former refugees represents a major step in their successful integration in Quintana Roo. In Sept. 2000, former Guatemalan refugees in the state of Campeche received land titles, but they were paid for by UNHCR and involved land from a UNHCR-Mexican Commission to Aid Refugees (COMAR) trust fund.

The Quintana Roo process was begun yesterday (Monday) in a ceremony at Maya Balam B, a former refugee camp, where the first 20 titles were presented. The governor of Quintana Roo, the president of the municipality, the general coordinator of COMAR, and UNHCR staff attended the event. Land titles provided to married couples will give equal rights over the property to both men and women. Widows and orphans will receive individual land titles.

The approximately 2,800 former refugees currently living in Quintana Roo were among some 18,000 Guatemalans who arrived in Campeche and Quintana Roo states in late 1984 and early 1985 after fleeing Guatemala to Chiapas state in Mexico. Although many Guatemalan refugees eventually returned home, others chose to remain in Mexico. Almost 5,000 Guatemalans in the two states have become naturalized citizens in a process which began in 1996 and ended in August 2001.