Mexico says will not accept return of at-risk U.S. asylum seekers

Two U.S.-Mexico meetings have been held to work out details of a new plan to return across the shared border migrants seeking U.S. asylum, but Mexico will not accept anybody facing a credible threat back home, a Mexico Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

In a major policy change, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said on Dec. 20 it would send non-Mexican migrants who cross the U.S. southern border back to wait in Mexico while their U.S. asylum requests are processed.

At the time, Mexico said it would accept some Central American asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons, in what many saw as an early concession to Trump by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1.

Trump is demanding $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the Mexican border, triggering a 33-day U.S. government shutdown which has left 800,000 federal workers without pay.

In an interview on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco said Mexico cannot accept the return of migrants who are “in danger.”

“If they return people that are vulnerable, that have a founded fear of persecution in Mexico, or people that require some special attention, we don’t have resources to address that,” he said.

Velasco did not say how Mexico and the United States would determine which asylum seekers were at risk in Mexico. Last year about 93,000 people sought asylum at the southern border, up 67 percent from 2017, according to U.S. government data.

Serious doubts exist over whether Mexico can keep Central American asylum seekers who are fleeing poverty and crime safe, especially in border towns that are often more violent than the cities they left. Authorities are investigating the recent deaths of two Honduran teenagers kidnapped and killed in the border city of Tijuana.