12 December 2017

Capacity building in Mexico

In November 2017 dr. Tanja van Veldhuizen, postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University’s Montaigne Centre for Judicial Administration and Conflict Resolution, was hired by MIEUX (MIgration EU eXpertise) to provide a two-day training on evidence assessment in asylum cases to Mexican asylum officials.

Training Mexican officials with Tanja van Veldhuizen

MIEUX, a joined inititative of the EU and ICMPD, is a peer-to-peer experts’ facility which supports partner countries and regional organisations to better manage migration and mobility through the provision of rapid, tailor-made assistance upon request.

Increase of asylum seekers

Since 2011, Mexico has been confronted with a sharply increasing number of asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras): in 2016 almost 9000 people applied for international protection in Mexico, and the prognosis for 2017 is more than 22000 asylum applications. This is caused by the extreme violence and unrest in these neighboring countries, but also by the closing northern border; many asylum seekers try to reach the USA.

Capacity building missions

In dealing with these applications, the Mexican authorities have very limited resources, manpower and training facilities. They therefore asked for help from the MIEUX initiative, to provide short-term capacity building missions to their officials. Together with Christian Andersson from the Swedish Migration Board, Tanja functioned as an expert in the training based on her research into credibility assessments.

Training sessions

13 Mexican asylum officials participated in the training sessions which covered topics as: matters of fact vs. matters of law, credibility assessments and possible distortions, standard and burden of proof, benefit of the doubt, avoiding biased decision making, and writing the decision. Besides the face-to-face training, the experts also provided a summary of the training in a video conference with 16 officials working at the different border posts. Thereby they reached about 80% of all Mexican asylum officials in three days.

"Unique challenges"

Not only was the workshop well-received by the participants, it was also very rewarding and instructive for Tanja: “Having to translate my research findings into concrete tips and practical exercises for practitioners made me critically review my own findings from a different perspective, and the different context in which Mexican authorities operate gave me a better idea of the unique challenges that each country faces in dealing with asylum claims”.

She also observed that besides the activity being valuable with regard to transferring knowledge and teaching skills, it also promoted critical reflection and an open discussion among the officials, and empowered the officials.