MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis has provoked a surge of asylum seekers to Mexico this year, government figures show, with applications to stay in Mexico setting a record pace.
During just the first six months of this year, 1,420 Venezuelans have sought asylum in Mexico, a nearly four-fold jump compared to the 361 total Venezuelan asylum applicants for all of 2016.
No Venezuelans applied for asylum in Mexico in 2014 or 2015.
“It’s not normal for so many Venezuelans to come here,” Socorro Flores, Mexico deputy foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, told Reuters in an interview.
Venezuelans made up 21 percent of total asylum seekers in Mexico during the first half of this year, compared to just 4 percent during the same period in 2016.
About 40 percent of the Venezuelan asylum applicants have received approval, making them eligible for other protections and benefits including the possibility of obtaining a work visa, while the rest are still being processed.
Flores said the ongoing social upheaval in Venezuela is behind the trend.
“Venezuela is a divided country, it is a polarized country, and it will require a lot of vision and a lot of international support to sit down and have a dialogue that can find a solution,” said Flores.
“The region does not want to see a Venezuela plunged into violence and chaos.”