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UN Refugee Chief Asks Mexico to do More for Asylum Seekers

FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Filippo Grandi speaks after a meeting with Chile's Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera in Santiago, Chile, Aug. 13, 2019.

The United Nations' top official for refugees called on Mexico Wednesday to devote more resources to the country's badly overtaxed refugee aid agency.

High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement that the number of people seeking asylum in Mexico is only expected to grow as the United States makes it more difficult to seek asylum there.

In 2014, Mexico received 2,100 requests for asylum. Through the first eight months of this year it received more than 48,000.

"Mexico faces growing challenges and concerns due to the policy changes in the United States that led to a significant increase in the number of people who decide to seek asylum in Mexico," Grandi said. He described Mexico's asylum system as "already overburdened."

Grandi spent four days visiting shelters and other facilities in the southern border state of Chiapas and northern border state of Coahuila.

Grandi said asylum seekers in Mexico were still waiting months for documents they need to get access to work and social services.

The U.N. refugee agency has supported Mexico by providing funds to hire more personnel. But Grandi said Mexico has to do more too.

"This support also requires a more robust commitment on the part of the Mexican government to increase the resources assigned to [the refugee agency] in the national budget so that they can more effectively respond," Grandi said.

The government's proposed 2020 budget included a 31% increase for the Mexican Commission to Support Refugees, but that was still below its budget in 2014, when it received a fraction of the asylum requests.

Its director told local news media that the $369,000 (7.3 million pesos) increase was not enough for his agency to handle its workload. He said that it needed at least $5 million (100 million pesos).