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Friday, December 09, 2022

Ukrainian refugees await US action at camp in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – In a dusty field on the east side of Mexico’s sprawling capital, nearly 500 Ukrainian refugees wait in large tents under the setting sun for the United States government to tell them they can come.

It’s only been a week since the camp and 50 to 100 people are reaching daily. Some have already gone to the US border in Tijuana where they were told they would no longer be admitted. Others arrived at airports in Mexico City or Cancun, anywhere they got tickets from Europe.

“We are asking the US government to expedite the process,” said Anastasia Polo, co-founder of United, a non-governmental organization with ties to Ukraine, which collaborated with the Mexican government to set up the camp. She said that after a week there are no refugees “even near the end of the programme.”

The program, Uniting for Ukraine, was announced by the US government on April 21. Four days later, Ukrainians who appeared at the US-Mexico border were no longer exempt from the pandemic-related rule, which was used to quickly evacuate migrants without opportunity. He has been seeking asylum for the last two years.

Instead, they must apply from other countries such as Europe or Mexico. People must be in Ukraine by February 11 to qualify; a sponsor, which may be a family or an organization; meeting vaccination and other public health requirements; And pass the background check.

Polo said US government officials had told him it should take a week to process people, but it appeared to be just the beginning. Some of the first arrivals had received emails from the US government, acknowledging that they had received their documents and documents from their sponsors, but had heard that no sponsor had been approved yet.

“These people can’t stay in this camp, because it’s temporary,” Polo said. More than 100 residents of the camp are children.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some 5.5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded its smaller neighbor on February 24.

Georgy Mikaberidze, 19, is waiting. He arrived in Tijuana on April 25 and found the US border closed. He complained that the US government had given so little notice, because many people like him were already in transit. He moved a few yards from what is now the United States, a distance of about 600 miles (966 kilometres).

When the US government announced in late March that it would accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, hundreds of people entered Mexico daily as tourists in Mexico City or Cancun and flew to Tijuana to wait a few days. – eventually only a few hours – to be admitted to the US on humanitarian parole across the San Diego border. Appointments at US consulates in Europe were rare, and refugee resettlement takes time, making Mexico the best option.

Traveling through Mexico was windy, but a loose-knit group of volunteers, largely from Slavic churches in the western United States, welcomed the refugees at Tijuana Airport and locked them in a recreation center called Tijuana City. had provided for several thousand to wait. , The wait of two to four days was eventually shortened to a few hours as US border inspectors turned the Ukrainians in.

That special treat came to an end the day Mikaberidze arrived in Tijuana.

“We want to go to America because (we) are already here, some don’t even have money to go back,” he said.

Mikaberidze was on his way to visit relatives in Georgia, in the south of Ukraine, when the Russian invasion struck and he could not return. His mother, who lives in their village near Kharkhov in eastern Ukraine, was afraid to leave her home because Russian soldiers indiscriminately shot down cars traveling in the area, he said.

“She said it was a very dangerous situation,” said Micaberidze, who traveled alone to Mexico.

Mexico City camping provides a safe place to wait. It was built inside a large sports complex, so Ukrainians could be seen strolling on the sidewalk with children, playing football and volleyball, even swimming.

However, the refugees are warned that they are free to leave the premises, but no one is responsible for their safety. Istpalapa, the capital’s most populous city, is also one of its most dangerous areas.

Polo said the Mexican government was providing security at the camp, along with about 50 officers. The Navy had also set up a mobile kitchen to provide food.

She said they felt safe inside the camp, but was asking the government about the possibility of moving the camp to a safer area.

Mykhailo Pasternak and his girlfriend Maziana Hzyhozyshyn, waited at the entrance to the campus on Monday afternoon. Both suffering from an apparent head cold, they planned to go to a hotel for a day or two to get some sleep and try to recover before returning to camp.

Pasternak had left America to help Hazihozhishin get in. The two spent several days in Tijuana before flying to Mexico City and arriving at the camp on Sunday.

The couple stood outside on the streets of Iztapalapa and appeared to wither under the relentless sun. Both had known each other for six years.

“She is my love,” said Pasternak.

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Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

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