September 29, 2019 / 2:05 AM / 22 days ago

Mexico's stretched asylum agency needs more resources - U.N. refugee chief

FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi speaks with the media after a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Teodoro Ribera, at the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Santiago, Chile, August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

TAPACHULA (Reuters) - United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi asked on Saturday for more resources for Mexico’s asylum agency, which has been overwhelmed with applicants after many abandoned plans to migrate to the United States.

Resources at the agency, COMAR, have become more stretched since the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month decided to restore a Trump administration policy that requires most immigrants who want asylum to first seek safe haven in a third country that they travelled through on their way to the United States.

Grandi was visiting COMAR in Tapachula in the state of Chiapas near the Guatemalan border, where many Central American migrants cross into Mexico on their way north to the U.S. border.

“COMAR needs more resources and room to work because the challenge is increasing,” he said at a news conferences.

“There has been an important increase but this does not equate with the resources that COMAR has. We have to speed up the relocation of at least those who receive refugee status,” Grandi said.

COMAR received federal funding of 20 million pesos ($1 million) in 2019, the lowest sum in seven years. The proposed 2020 budget would increase it to 27 million pesos.

The agency’s head, Andres Ramirez, told Reuters earlier this month that COMAR would still fall short of the 117 million pesos needed. Applications are expected to hit 80,000 this year, more than double last year’s.

COMAR leans heavily on the United Nations’ refugee agency, which has provided 112 staff and helped open three new offices.

Reporting by Josue Gonzalez in Tapachula and Julia Love in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera Espinosa; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Leslie Adler

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