High-level meetings about how Mexico should respond to the crisis in Ukraine have been underway this week.
In a phone call, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Mexico could potentially offer asylum to Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war.
“Mexico has a long tradition of welcoming refugees fleeing from conflict and war,” said the president.
Canada has already received tens of thousands of refugees into the country which is already home to a Ukrainian diaspora of over a million people.
Mexico’s refugee agency says it’s ready to begin processing claims from Ukrainians wanting to come to Mexico, but noted that additional resources and funding are likely to be necessary.
Roughly 75% of all political asylum petitions in Mexico are eventually granted, according to official government sources.
Last year Mexico saw a record-breaking 131,448 asylum claims, mostly from citizens of Central American and Caribbean countries.
But several pro-refugee organizations claim that Mexico has done an abysmal job of offering even the bare necessities to refugees already inside its borders.
“There are deep contradictions between what the Mexican government says and what it actually does when it comes to offering aid to refugees,” said Asylum Access Mexico Executive Director Alejandra Macías Delgadillo.
Although Mexico has a history of accepting refugees, historically most have been from other Spanish-speaking nations. During the Spanish Civil War, more than 25,000 Spanish refugees settled in Mexico between 1939 and 1942.
Even processing Ukrainian refugees could be a problem for Mexico. The law demands non-Spanish speakers access to translators to help process their claims.
The number of Russian citizens attempting to cross the Tijuana border into the United States in 2021 was just over 6,000, and both US and Mexican immigration officials say that this trend seems to be rapidly peaking upwards.