When his wife, Rocio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old attorney who dealt with abused women began getting death threats from cartel and local police ignored her appeals for help, they decided they had to escape.
“They knew where we lived and what automobile we drove,” said Meraz, a 41-year-old professor at The University of Colima, located on the Pacific Coast and around 300 miles (483 kilometers) west of Mexico City. “If you feel you are about to lose your life or one of your children, I have no problem beginning over.”
The family is part of an increase in the number of Mexican asylum seekers in Canada this year. Due to the greater ease of gaining asylum in Canada compared to the United States, visa-free travel between Mexico and Canada, and the prospect of violence at home, over 8,000 Mexican nationals applied for refugee status in 2022. That is about five times as many as in 2018 and over twice as many as in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 outbreak and the accompanying travel restrictions.
Numerous direct flights to and from Mexico are available from Montreal, where the great majority of them arrive.
Viviana Tapia Gonzalez, a human rights activist and mother of four from Aguascalientes, approximately 265 miles (465 kilometers) northwest of Mexico City, stated that she fled the country in January after being attacked by the military. She stated that her work with families of murdered and missing women and girls made her a target.
She stated that death threats were persistent. “I believed that was my final chance for safety. I work for several causes and assist numerous people. I did not want to quit assisting, but I must also look out for myself.”
Canada has a far simpler procedure for gaining asylum than the United States.
Tapia Gonzalez has been residing at a Montreal women’s shelter while she awaits a verdict on her asylum application, which she worries may be denied.
If her claim is denied, she would not be the only one.
In the first nine months of 2022, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent panel that analyzes and evaluates asylum petitions, adjudicated almost 2,700 Mexican refugee requests. IRB spokesperson Christian Tessier stated that 1,032 were approved, 1,256 were refused, and the remaining 400-plus were either abandoned, withdrawn, or had different results.
Claimants in Canada must meet the United Nations’ definition of a “convention refugee,” which is someone who is outside of their home country and has a well-founded fear that they would be persecuted if they returned due to their race, religion, political opinions, nationality, or membership in a social group. Aside from that, individuals must demonstrate that they require protection and cannot return to their home nations securely without facing torture, harsh or unusual punishment, or death.
Despite the possibility of rejection, the influx of Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada continues.
After crossing the Canada-U.S. border in Hemmingford, Quebec, refugees are screened by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
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The Welcome Collective, a humanitarian organization located in Montreal that gives vital commodities to new asylum seekers, said that 50 percent of the group’s current clientele are from Mexico, a 300 percent increase from earlier this year.
“They were forced to flee due to violence and other humanitarian concerns. To find a better location for their children, according to Flavia Leiva, volunteer and social outreach coordinator for the organization.
Leiva hypothesized that social media played a part in the surge of applications.
“There have been YouTubers and TikTok videos discussing how simple it is to enter Canada,” she claimed.
At least one YouTube video released for a Mexican audience ten months ago and with more than four million views explains the Canadian immigration procedure in Spanish.
Migrants in Canada must fulfill the United Nations’ criteria for “convention refugee.”
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Since the beginning of the epidemic, Mexicans seeking refuge in the United States have encountered greater difficulty. Mexicans are disproportionately affected by a US public health law that suspends the ability to seek asylum for the purpose of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Since its implementation in March 2020, the Title 42 power has been utilized to remove almost 2,4 million migrants.
In late 2016, the Canadian government eliminated the necessity for Mexicans to get a visa in order to enter the nation, further enhancing Canada’s appeal.
Leiva also claimed that more Mexicans may choose Canada over the United States because they perceive it to be safer.
Meraz stated that he and his family believed Canada would provide the finest opportunity to start afresh.
“My wife researched the existence of international accords to protect vulnerable persons,” he stated.
In addition to the country’s comparably low crime rate, he mentioned Canada’s rules and legislation safeguarding women and children.
“The United States never crossed our minds since there is so much bloodshed… assaults in which so many innocent people die,” said Meraz. Statistics show that Canada has a far lower rate of violence and a higher quality of life than the United States.
His family selected Montreal over other Canadian cities for logistical reasons, but he is now having second thoughts.
Meraz, observing that he and his family must now learn French, responded, “Perhaps, if you were to ask me right now if I would pick another location.”
Hayet Mohammed, who manages the French language program at Carrefour Solidarité Anjou, a non-profit organization that helps newcomers settle in Quebec, stated that not only is it easier to obtain refugee status in Canada, but there are also numerous resources available to asylum seekers once they arrive.
“They can work as soon as they obtain refugee status and are entitled to (French) classes provided by the (Ministry of Immigration in Quebec), which provides them with financial assistance. Moreover, there are numerous employment opportunities, and they are not at risk of being unemployed,” said Mohammed.
“As an immigrant myself with a small family, I can say that no other nation provides immigrants with as many training, employment, and kid benefits as the United States. All of these factors cause people to leave their home countries and settle here, thousands of kilometers away from their relatives, she explained.