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UNHCR welcomes Mexico's reforms to protect rights of child refugees and asylum-seekers

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UNHCR welcomes Mexico's reforms to protect rights of child refugees and asylum-seekers

15 January 2021
A young girl cover her eyes with her hands
A young girl who fled with her mum to escape violence in Central America after arriving in Tapachula, Mexico.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, applauds the entry into force of important new measures in Mexico to protect the rights of child refugees and asylum-seekers, including the end of immigration detention for boys and girls.

Under the reforms, no children, either accompanied or unaccompanied, are to be held in immigration detention centres. Rather, they are to be referred to alternative accommodation. UNHCR is working with relevant government agencies, UN sister agencies and civil society organizations to ensure that referral mechanisms and adequate shelter capacity is in place.

“Mexico is making a decisive step to end immigration detention for children and we are encouraged by this promising development,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs. Triggs’ remarks came as part of an online discussion on “Children and the Global Compact on Refugees” held January 13.

UNHCR advocates globally for an end to immigration detention of refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children.

Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, who participated on the panel, said that the measures to give priority to the best interests of children were part of the commitments made by the government of Mexico at the Global Refugee Forum, which took place in December 2019. “No child, accompanied or unaccompanied, is now present at our immigration facilities,” she declared.

The reforms approved in November apply to all children in migration contexts, whether they are accompanied or not. They also reinforce determination of the best interest of the child in migration procedures and make them eligible for temporary humanitarian visas to prevent deportation or return until their best interests can be determined, which facilitates access to international protection and the asylum system.

Mexico has become an increasingly important country of asylum in the past five years, with more than 70,000 asylum claims in 2019. Although claims dropped in 2020 as a result of mobility restrictions in neighbouring Central American countries due to COVID-19, asylum applications for December 2020 were at an all-time high. One out of five asylum-seekers in Mexico in 2020 were children. Throughout the pandemic, Mexico has continued to register new asylum claims from people fleeing violence and persecution, helping them find safety.

UNHCR reiterates its commitment to support the government of Mexico in implementing the reforms related to child refugees and asylum-seekers and highlight the importance of allocating the financial, human and technical resources to ensure their effective application.

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