The Mexican Refugee Assistance Commission announced that a total of 58,642 people applied for asylum in the country during the first half of 2022. This is an all-time high, up nearly 15% from the record 51,654 asylum applications in the same period of 2021.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 2021 was the year having the highest number of illegal migrants who died in the Americas since 2014, with more than 1,238 people dead or missing. There were 728 migrants killed or missing in the border areas between Mexico and the US in 2021, marking the “deadliest year” there since 2014.
The migration conundrum has existed for many years in the Americas. The North Central American triangle, which includes Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, is the starting point and transit point for the influx of migrants who come to the US each year to escape the spiral of poverty, violence, and natural disasters in their homeland.
Travel restrictions to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in some countries have not yet been completely lifted, so migrants, who have few options, have to accept dangerous routes with a higher risk.
Some of the dangerous routes they choose are the sea routes in the Caribbean, the roads in Central America through the Darien jungle, the roads in North Central America - where accidents with migrant vehicles are common, or through the Rio Bravo River that runs along the Mexico-US border. Behind the dream of reaching the promised land is a fierce reality, with a life lacking food and medicine and full of risks of being kidnapped or killed, making the fate of migrants more fragile than ever. However, illegal immigration continues to be widespread throughout the Americas.
As the main destination of migrants, the US has coordinated with countries in the region to improve the safety of migrants. Recently, the US, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras planned to form a joint action group, thereby promoting information exchange and coordination in dismantling human trafficking rings. The IOM also recommends that governments create an agency responsible for collecting and systematising data on migrant deaths and building a harmonised and integrated migration policy.
At the 9th Summit of the Americas, the leaders of 20 participating countries pledged to coordinate on migration issues. The joint statement issued after the summit called for ensuring the safety and legitimate rights of all migrants, as well as calling on law enforcement and intelligence forces to work more closely to prevent illegal migration. The US insisted that it will continue to step up action and Washington will provide 171 million USD in emergency food and humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan migrants seeking refuge in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Despite lurking dangers, the wave of illegal migrants seeking the “promised lands” in the Americas continues to rise. Countries in the region must commit to protecting migrants and improving the quality of life in their homelands. However, going from words to actions requires drastic and close coordination from all countries.