Asylum Seekers in the Americas

For 2010-2011, approximately 13% of asylum requests were made in the countries of the Americas, a figure that has been fairly stable throughout the decade (Table 2). Approximately

(Table 2: Asylum seekers in the Americas by country of asylum, 2000 – 2011)

three of four applications were made in the United States and Canada. Among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, it is Ecuador and to a lesser extent Costa Rica and Venezuela that have historically received the largest number of applications.

In absolute terms, the Americas received some 100,000 asylum applications per year throughout the decade, reaching approximately 113,000 in 2011. This represented some 123 asylum applications for every million inhabitants of the Americas. Although the United States and Canada are the countries with the highest number of applications in absolute terms, the number of applications per capita is highest in Ecuador, Canada, Panama, Costa Rica, followed by the United States and Venezuela.

Asylum applications in the Americas increased by 7% in 2011 compared to 2010. This increase mainly reflects the difference between a 41% increase in asylum applications in the United States and a 55% drop in Ecuador. . The decline in Ecuador was the result of the Extended Registry initiative whose objective was to implement a rapid system for the review and resolution of asylum applications on the northern border. Between March 2009 and 2010, 27,740 people were recognized as refugees, offering a way out for Colombian citizens fleeing their country as a result of the worsening internal conflict. By December 2011, it was estimated that there were around 55,000 people in refugee conditions in Ecuador, of which 98% were recognized refugees of Colombian nationality (UNHCR – Ecuador,

The origin of asylum applications in the United States remained stable over the two years, with around 40% coming from countries in the Americas and 60% from the rest of the world. Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala are the most represented countries in terms of asylum applications in the United States. Mexican asylum seekers increased by 214% in 2011 compared to the previous year, one of the main causes being the growing violence, mainly in the cities of the northern border between Mexico and the United States, which has motivated the use of asylum seekers. asylum conditions as an option to emigrate.

Brazil has registered a fivefold increase in asylum applications in 2011 compared to 2010, due mostly to applications from Haitian citizens as a result of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

Ninety-seven percent of asylum applications from the Americas come from nationals of six countries, with Colombia, Mexico and Haiti originating the majority of requests (Graph 3).

(Graph 3: Asylum seekers in the Americas, distribution of countries of destination by main countries of origin, 2009-2011)

Asylum seekers of Colombian origin make the majority of their applications in Ecuador, although other countries such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Spain have recently consented to resettle Colombians at the request of the Government of Ecuador.

Claims by asylum seekers from other countries are made primarily in the United States and to a lesser extent in absolute terms in Canada. Finally, Haitians, due to language issues among other factors, have made more requests in France than in other countries, although Brazil, the United States and Canada have also received significant numbers of requests from that country.

In recent years, much attention has been focused in Latin America on what is designated “mixed migratory movements,” referring to the fact that people seeking refuge from persecution or conflict and those migrating for economic reasons often follow the same same routes and use the same means of transport (Crisp, 2008), which in practice complicates the examination of asylum applications. The same phenomenon occurred after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when large numbers of economic migrants used the asylum route to enter Western Europe.

A number of “rules” have been developed to limit what are considered unsubstantiated claims, including safe country of origin and safe country of transit. The first one refers to the fact that certain countries are considered “safe”, where human rights are respected; therefore asylum applications from these countries are not accepted. The safe transit country rule states that asylum seekers should normally apply in the first “safe” country they arrive in, rather than moving on to another that may be considered a preferred country of destination.

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