Mexico suspends refugee requests as coronavirus cases climb to 405

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico temporarily halted the processing of asylum requests from Tuesday, its refugee agency said, the latest measure in North America aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus that have also limited access to asylum.

Migration authorities will resume processing applications on April 20, Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR said, in line with a government order for various public offices to halt certain functions.

The foreign ministry will put the issuance of passports on hold from March 27 to April 19, it said on Tuesday.

Mexico reported 405 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 367 a day earlier, and five deaths overall.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have also taken steps in recent days in response to coronavirus that have curbed asylum processes.

Canada said it would turn back asylum seekers who walk over the U.S.-Canada border, while the United States said it would postpone all court hearings for asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration instituted a policy last year that has sent back some 60,000 migrants requesting asylum to wait on the Mexican side of the border for U.S. immigration court hearings.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Birsel