Waiting to cross US border, hundreds of Ukrainians shelter in Mexico

Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who fled to Mexico have been transported to a sports centre in the northern city of Tijuana that has been converted into a government shelter, authorities said on Monday, as they wait to cross the border and reach the United States.

According to Enrique Lucero, Tijuana’s migration affairs director, some 400 Ukrainians came in Tijuana on Saturday and Sunday after entering the nation through airports in Cancun and Mexico City.

They joined an escalating number of Ukrainians fleeing violence in their homeland, who have jammed into makeshift camps along the international border crossing that connects Tijuana and California.

Lucero believed that 1,700 Ukrainians had arrived in Tijuana in recent weeks as of Sunday night.

“They’ll keep coming,” Lucero said.

The influx of Ukrainians in Tijuana coincides with increased attempts by US officials to process all migrants and asylum seekers, regardless of nationality, as the country prepares to repeal a pandemic-era policy that effectively shut out asylum at the border.

Commissioner Chris Magnus of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement on Monday that the agency is increasing manpower and resources at the southwest border, but he didn’t say how many agents would be deployed or where they would be placed.

On Friday, Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which controls CBP, said his agency has already dispatched 600 law enforcement personnel to the border and will deploy more as needed.

Lucero expressed optimism that US officials would expedite the processing of Ukrainian refugees, and that the shelter would help with housing concerns until that time came.

“This week is critical,” he continued, “but the number of people in need of a place to stay will decline as US agents enhance processing capacity.”

In late March, US President Joe Biden stated that the country would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians for resettlement this year.

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