MS Risk Blog

From bad to worse: Fleeing the Northern Triangle for Mexico

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The contemporary security situation in Mexico is affected by various external factors. According to the UNHCRs international protection chief, the stream of refugees from the Northern Triangle of Central America constitutes one of these factors. The UN official, Volker Trk, described the situation as approaching crisis levels. For decades, Mexico has served as a place of transit for Central American migrants heading north. But in the last few years the reality has changed with an increasing number of people from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, actually seeking asylum in Mexico. The inflow is increased even more due to the recent crackdown by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) on illegal immigrants and the resulting increase in deportations back down south to the Northern Triangle and Mexico. Last year, Mexico received almost 9,000 new asylum applications, a 156 per cent increase in comparison to 2015. Since January 2015, the number of asylum applications filed has increased by more than eight per cent per month. Based on this trend, the UN Refugee Agency projects at least 20,000 additional asylum claims in Mexico in 2017. However, for those fleeing from extortion, forced recruitment and human rights abuses perpetrated by transnational organized crime groups and local criminal gangs, Mexico is not necessarily the Promised Land as violence in Americas southern neighbor is not particularly letting up. After years of falling homicide levels, Mexico is suffering a deteriorating security situation not seen since former president Felipe Calderon announced a war on drug gangs in 2007. Veracruz, home to rival cartels such as the Zetas and the Jalisco New Generation saw 1,258 registered homicides last year alone. This month, authorities confirmed the discovery of more than 250 bodies in what appears to be a drug cartel mass burial ground on the outskirts of the city of Veracruz. The clandestine graves are of such an industrial scale that backhoes or bulldozers were likely used in creating them and contain so many bodies that officials arent digging in some places because they dont have space for the remains. Another site south of the city of Veracruz where there were apparently also clandestine graves, is not being explored yet, because the morgues cant handle all the bodies. The industrial nature of the mass graves make it unlikely that authorities did not know about them. Meanwhile, the former governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte is being sought over allegations he was involved in organized crime and money laundering. Elsewhere in Mexico, hidden graves have been found containing hundreds of bodies. In January, 56 bodies were found in a grave in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where drug cartels vie for control of the routes toward the US. So, while the refugees are leaving a terrible situation behind, coming to Mexico might mean they are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.