UNHCR welcomes new refugee law in Mexico

Briefing Notes, 28 January 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 January 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency welcomes a new law adopted by Mexico on protection of refugee and asylum seekers. The new law was formally signed by President Felipe Calderón on Wednesday, by which the law enters into force.

Entitled the "Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection", it was earlier passed by the Senate and the Lower Chamber in 2010. Mexico signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol in 2000 and has a history of protecting asylum seekers and refugees. But, until now, Mexico lacked a specific legal framework as previous laws did not comply with international standards.

The new law incorporates Mexico's good practices on refugees, such as permission to work, access to health services including health insurance, access to education and revalidation of studies.

Drafted in 2009 by the Mexican Refugee Commission with UNHCR's technical support, it includes definitions of a refugee as per the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees as well the Cartagena Declaration. It also considers gender as grounds for persecution.

Mexico will grant complementary protection for people not considered as refugees but whose life has been threatened or could be at risk of torture, ill treatment, or other forms of cruel inhuman treatment.

This law conforms to international law and standards, as it includes the principle of non-refoulement (no forced returns), non-discrimination, and no penalty for irregular entry, the family unity principle, the best interests of the child, and confidentiality, among others.

Mexico continues receiving refugees from Latin American countries (mainly from Colombia, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) but also extra-regional refugees (from DR Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran, Nepal, Nigeria, and Myanmar, among others).