A special camp was built for Ukrainians in Mexico: there they are waiting for a decision on asylum in the United States
About 500 Ukrainian refugees wait in large tents at a camp in Mexico City under the scorching sun for the US government to allow them to cross the border, reports APNews.
The camp is only open for a week, and between 50 and 100 people arrive every day. Some have already been to the US border in Tijuana, where they were told they would not be allowed in again. Others arrived at the airports in Mexico City or Cancun, where a ticket from Europe could be found.
“We are asking the US government to expedite the process,” said Anastasia Polo, co-founder of Unity for Ukraine, an NGO that partnered with the Mexican government to set up the camp. She said that after a week, none of the refugees stationed there "had even come close to the end of the program."
The Unity for Ukraine program was announced by the US government on 21 April. Four days later, Ukrainians showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border were no longer exempt from a pandemic-related rule that had been used to quickly expel migrants without the ability to seek asylum for the past two years.
Instead, they will have to apply from Europe or other countries such as Mexico. To apply, people had to be in Ukraine as of February 11; have a sponsor, which can be a family or an organization; comply with vaccination and other public health requirements; and pass a background check.
On the subject: A new program for Ukrainians in the USA has been launched: who can apply and how
Polo said US government officials told her it should take a week to process people, but it looks like things are just getting started. Some of the early arrivals received emails from the US government confirming that they had received their documents and those of their sponsors, but she had heard that the sponsors had not yet been approved.
“These people cannot stay in this camp because it is temporary,” Polo said. More than 100 people living in the camp are children.
Almost 5,5 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Giorgi Mikaberidze, 19, among those waiting. He arrived in Tijuana on April 25 to find the US border closed. He complained that the US government paid so little attention to him because many people like him were already on the road and did not know anything about the changes.
When the U.S. government announced in late March that it would take up to 100 Ukrainian refugees, hundreds of people entered Mexico daily as tourists to Mexico City or Cancun and flew to Tijuana to wait days, and ultimately only hours, to be let through. in the US at the border crossing in San Diego on a humanitarian parole. Meetings at US consulates in Europe were infrequent, and resettling refugees takes time, so Mexico was the best option.
Traveling through Mexico was challenging, but a tight-knit group of volunteers, mostly from Slavic churches in the western United States, met the refugees at the Tijuana airport and took them to a recreation center that the city of Tijuana provided for waiting. The two to four day wait was eventually reduced to a few hours as American border guards let the Ukrainians in.
This special treatment ended the day Mikaberidze arrived in Tijuana.
"We want to go to America because we're already here, some don't even have the money to go back," he said.
Mikaberidze was visiting relatives in Georgia when the Russian invasion took place and was unable to return. His mother, he said, remains in their village near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, afraid to leave her home because Russian troops indiscriminately shoot at cars passing through the area.
“She said it was a very dangerous situation,” said Mikaberidze, who traveled to Mexico alone.
The camp in Mexico City provides a safe place to wait. It was built inside a large sports complex, so you could see how Ukrainians rolled strollers with children along the sidewalks, played football and volleyball, and even swam.
However, the refugees were warned that although they were free to leave the complex, no one was responsible for their safety. Iztapalapa, the most densely populated area of the capital, is also one of the most dangerous.
According to Polo, the Mexican government provided security for the camp with about 50 officers. The Navy also installed a mobile kitchen to provide meals.
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She said that they felt safe in the camp, but asked the government to move the camp to a more peaceful place.
Mikhail Pasternak and his girlfriend Mazyana Gzigozishyn were waiting at the entrance to the complex on May 2 in the afternoon. Both suffered from an obvious runny nose and planned to move into a hotel for a day or two to try and get some sleep and recover before returning to camp.
Pasternak left the US to help Gzigozishin. They spent several days in Tijuana before flying to Mexico City and arriving at the camp on May 1st. The couple had known each other for six years.
“She is my love,” said Pasternak.
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