Drug violence in Mexico drives 'narco-refugees' into US
The number of 'narco-refugees,' Mexicans trying to escape drug violence by seeking asylum in the US, increased almost 50-fold from 2006 to 2008.
Violence driven by organized crime in Mexico and Central America has forced thousands from their homes, with some fleeing over international borders, though the situation has not reached anything like the level of displacement seen in Colombia.Skip to next paragraph
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The increase in Mexican "narco-refugees" is the subject of a new report from the Strategic Studies Institute, an academic offshoot of the US Army. As author Paul Rexton Kan argues, the rising number of Mexicans seeking asylum reflects a rapidly changing environment in Mexico, and has the potential to create a serious set of headaches for US policy-makers:
If the health of the Mexican state declines because criminal violence continues, increases, or spreads, U.S. communities will feel an even greater burden on their systems of public safety and public health from narco-refugees. Given the ever-increasing brutality of the cartels, the question is whether and how the U.S. Government should begin to prepare for what could be a new wave of migrants coming from Mexico.
Yet, the lack of a clear U.S. policy on what to do about narco-refugees from Mexico mirrors the complicated U.S. relationship with Mexico itself, thus compounding the complication.
According to the report, roughly 2,500 Mexicans used violence as the basis for an appeal for asylum in the US in 2008, an almost 50-fold increase from 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office. Other reports differ with regard to the size of the increase – Global Post says that more than 2,600 requested asylum as early as 2006 – but most sources suggest that several thousand people are requesting asylum annually. Additionally, many thousands more are using alternative means of entry into the US to escape the violence, from tourist visas to legal residencies for investors.
IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war
The report focuses primarily on the challenge coming from those looking to escape Mexico for the US, but outbreaks in drug violence have also spurred migration within Mexico. In all, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that 230,000 Mexicans qualify as displaced.