Banegas, 28, said he first fled to the U.S. from Honduras as a teenager to avoid being recruited into a drug gang. He was deported in 2014. He re-entered the country with plans to apply for asylum in 2020, but was again unsuccessful. Therefore, when Banegas again fled from the threats of gangs in 2021, he did not head to the United States, but to Mexico, writes the Reuters agency.
In January, Banegas received refugee status and, with the help of the UN refugee program, moved to Saltillo, Mexico, where he got a job at a metal casting manufacturer that operates in the US and Mexico. And there are many such stories in the country. Mexico, which refugees have long perceived as more of a transit country, has become their destination in the last five years. According to Reuters, asylum seekers are mainly attracted to the country by a less restrictive asylum system than in the US, as well as plenty of jobs.
Banegas told Reuters he earns about $800 a month (CZK 17,800) – less than he thought he would earn in the US, but enough to send home at least $50 (CZK 1,100) a month to his family. He gets along well with his Mexican co-workers and is proud that his six-month-old son, David, has Mexican citizenship. “I feel at peace here. It is not necessary to travel to the United States. You can also make it here in Mexico,” he told Reuters.
10 years ago, several hundred people were granted asylum in Mexico each year. In 2021, there were already 27,000, according to the Mexican Agency for Refugees. This year, Mexico is on track to approve at least 20,000 asylum applications. Most of the arrivals are from Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, El Salvador and Cuba.
The vast majority of migrants who enter Mexico, however, continue north towards the US. The United States registered more than 700,000 individual asylum applications last year. This represents a long-term challenge for the Biden administration, Nauzal has already covered the topic.
However, the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mexico, Giovanni Lepri, said Mexico was becoming a “very solid option” for refugees. According to the business association Coparmex, there are more than a million job vacancies across the country. Employers in tourism, agriculture, transport and manufacturing often struggle to find workers.
According to the Mexican manufacturing association INDEX, the current labor shortage is exacerbated by the fact that a number of new companies are moving to Mexico to be closer to the US market.
Migration in the USA
Why is there no reform to solve the problem? “Republicans have noticed that migration is a reliable activation moment (before the elections),” says Americanist Kateřina Březinová.
U.S., Mexican, and U.N. officials are currently calling for regional cooperation to help resettle migrants in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia to reduce illegal migration to the U.S. In addition, Mexico is also working with the Guatemalan government to bring up to 20,000 workers a year to the country. The plan is to extend this program to Honduras and El Salvador.
In Mexico, according to Reuters, the UN is also helping refugees move from southern Mexico, where most of them complete the asylum process, to cities in central and northern Mexico, where labor is lacking. The UN provides migrants with cash grants and assistance with finding jobs as part of the program.