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Struggling to Survive: the Situation of Asylum Seekers in Tapachula, Mexico, June 2022

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Seeking asylum is never an easy process. Families, children, and adults forced to flee their homes experience the trauma of violence or other life-threatening circumstances at their place of origin, the rupture of leaving their past lives behind, and the uncertainty of where and how to find refuge. But in recent years, this already difficult path has become increasingly fraught with obstacles for the rising population of protection-seeking people arriving at Mexico’s southern border, the majority of whom make their asylum claims in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas.

The new WOLA report, Struggling to Survive: the Situation of Asylum Seekers in Tapachula, Mexico, follows the route of asylum seekers arriving in Tapachula. It draws on a March 2022 visit during which we conducted field documentation and interviews with asylum seekers, government officials, UN agencies, and civil society organizations providing services to migrants. The report highlights abuses, arbitrary treatment, and steep obstacles faced by asylum seekers at each step of their process.

“I don’t wish this on anyone,” an asylum seeker told WOLA staff during our visit. Interviewees described having to abandon their homes due to causes including government persecution and gang violence, only to face extortion or detention by Mexican migration agents and security forces as soon as they sought to enter Mexico. As exemplified in these stories, protection-seeking migrants are generally unable to request asylum at Mexico’s ports of entry, and those who manage to do so face a high risk of detention—for various amounts of time—by migration authorities. This undue barrier to accessing asylum forces already vulnerable people to cross between ports and attempt to avoid checkpoints and detention as they make their way to the offices of Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados).