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Women’s Refugee Commission Condemns Trump Administration’s “Safe Third Country” Asylum Agreement with Mexico

Washington, D.C. – The Trump administration is poised to sign an agreement which recognizes Mexico as a safe third country for migrants who would otherwise seek protection at U.S. borders. The term “safe third country” applies to countries determined as being non-refugee-producing or as being places where refugees can receive asylum without any danger.

Under a “Safe Third Country” agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, asylum-seekers and refugees who pass through Mexico and attempt to seek asylum at the U.S. southern border would be denied entry and forced to stay in a setting that is unsafe or returned to the countries from which they initially fled.

Data show that violence in Mexico is escalating with 2017 demonstrating the highest number of homicides on record. This year is on track to top 2017 numbers.

In addition to safety concerns that such an agreement presents, advocacy groups express concerns about Mexico’s ability to effectively process asylum claims. Despite steps taken by Mexico in recent years to strengthen its asylum system, the system has limited resources and capacity; it currently processes a small fraction of the asylum applications received by the U.S. and has a rapidly growing backlog. As of 2015, Mexico’s Commission for Refugee Assistance (or COMAR, by its acronym in Spanish) – the main asylum-processing entity in Mexico –  is staffed with only 15 agents and three offices throughout the entire country.

Michelle Brané, the director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program made the following statement today:

“This proposed agreement represents a direct threat to the lives of women and children fleeing violence in their home countries. The fact is that Mexico is not a safe option for many people, least of all migrants and asylum-seeking families. Violence in Mexico is at a record high.  U.S. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma has stated that 45 percent of the country is controlled by cartels, and the violence is escalating. In addition, Mexico just doesn’t have the capacity to process asylum claims. Signing this agreement would be one more attack by the Trump administration on women, children, and families seeking safety at our border.”