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  • Migrants at the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, August 24, 2019.

    Migrants at the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, August 24, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 September 2019

The figures represent a 3.3 times rise compared with the same period of the year in 2018, with 14,562 requests recorded then.

Almost 50,000 migrants from various countries across the world have sought asylum in Mexico during the first eight months of 2019, according to the Mexican Commission of Support for Refugees (Comar) Monday.

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In August, a total of 8,178 requests were filed, and 8,613 the month before. Comar's Director Andres Ramirez highlighted that half of the asylum requests were filed by Honduran citizens with 48.8 percent.

The figures represent a 3.3 times rise compared with the same period of the year in 2018, with 14,562 requests recorded then.

In May, Ramirez, who served 28 years with the U.N. refugee agency before joining the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said Comar was so overwhelmed he had turned to his former employer, the United Nations, for help.

UNHCR said it currently has 104 contractors on loan with Comar and was discussing additional staffing for only a temporary period of time.

As well as the rising number of applications, which have doubled for three consecutive years, Comar is facing its lowest funding in seven years, with a budget of US$1.2 million, due to government implemented budget cuts.

Following threats by United States President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on all its goods, on June 7 Mexico pledged to take a series of steps to contain migrants, the two governments agreed to review that effort after 90 days.

In July, Mexican authorities ruled out that the country would become a "safe third country" for migrants seeking asylum in the United States after Trump tightened regulations for accepting asylum applications from migrants. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon reiterated this stance on Tuesday.

Mexico said it would press the U.S. to halt arms smuggling across its border with Mexico at a pivotal meeting in Washington held on Tuesday while calling to review progress in efforts to curb a recent surge in Central American migrant flows.

Previous Mexican governments have argued that illicit arms sales and gun-running from the U.S. into Mexico have fueled turf wars between drug gangs and clashes with security forces, exacerbating social problems and adding to migratory pressures.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in gang-fueled violence, and over 40,000 have disappeared since former President Felipe Calderon sent in the armed forces to tackle Mexico’s powerful drug cartels at the end of 2006 with financial and technical support from Washington.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a progressive who took office in December, has vowed to end the lawlessness, but 2019 is on track to be the country's most violent year on record.

The president has been at pains to avoid antagonizing Trump over trade and migration, mindful of the fact that Mexico sends around 80 percent of its exports to their northern neighbors. Still, his administration has sought to draw some of the focus in bilateral relations away from migration by putting pressure on Washington to do more to tackle racially-motivated violence like the mass shooting in El Paso early in August.

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