People seeking asylum who apply for refugee recognition in Mexico while in immigration detention are required to remain in detention for the duration of their refugee status recognition process. However, should a person apply for asylum outside of detention, they will not be detained during their refugee status recognition process, given two conditions: first, that they remain in the federal entity (state) in which they are processing their application, and second, that they appear weekly before the corresponding authority to sign and declare their agreement to continue the process until a resolution is obtained. 

Over the past decade, IDC and various organisations, such as Asylum Access México and networks such as Grupo Articulador México del Plan de Acción Brasil (GAM-PAB) and Grupo de Trabajo de Política Migratoria (GTPM), have promoted collective advocacy actions, initiatives and pilot programs for children to promote alternatives to detention (ATD). 

On the basis of this and mindful of the severe injustice and harms endured in detention by people seeking asylum, in mid-2021, a civil society Advocacy Task Force against Detention was created to specifically advocate for an end to immigration detention of asylum seekers in Mexico.

The Task Force has focused on two activities: first, a campaign regarding the effects of detention on refugees and the need to eliminate detention for asylum seekers, aimed at raising awareness and promoting the prevention and elimination of detention in Mexico. Second, a proposal to reform several regulations in order to end this practice.

While the program allowing for the release of asylum seekers from detention has been implemented in the country since 2016 by the National Institute of Immigration (INM), the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (ACNUR), it remains an informal and discretionary practice without clear and public criteria, and at the end of 2020 it became subject to additional limitations. It is thus questionable whether the program can be considered an ATD.

All people seeking asylum are therefore at risk of detention at present. Children are an exception to this as their detention was prohibited, although not totally eradicated, by reforms in the Migration Law and the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum in 2020.

The legislative reform proposed by the Advocacy Task Force against Detention is ambitious, ranging from additions to the Constitution, to modifications of the Migration Law and the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum, among other initiatives. It aims to guarantee that asylum seekers are not subject to detention. 

In 2022, the Advocacy Task Force aims to continue to raise awareness and advocate for the above-mentioned reforms. In addition, a series of actions are planned to promote the adoption of ATD for asylum seekers in both policy and practice, as well as to influence judicial decisions that will prevent detention and guarantee access to due process.


Written by Diana Martinez Americas Program Officer, Carolina Carreño Americas Childhood Project Officer & Elizabeth Alvares Americas Programme Assistant