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News > Mexico

Migrant Exodus Moves to New Shelter in Unsafe Tijuana Enclave

  • Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. wait to board a bus to be transferred to a new shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 30, 2018|

    Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. wait to board a bus to be transferred to a new shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 30, 2018| | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 December 2018

Most of the 6,000 members of Central American Exodus migrant caravan, were transferred to a Tijuana shelter miles from the US border in a dangerous neighborhood.

The city government of Tijuana shut down its temporary shelter at the Benito Juarez sports complex that had become home to about 6,000 of the Central American Exodus members because of increasingly unsanitary conditions at the state-appointed venue while the refugees wait to enter the United States.


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The sports complex had been home to about 6,000 Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. since arriving in the Mexico city that borders San Diego, California.

Precise estimates are hard to come by, but around 8,000-10,000 people, part of the Exoduses (migrant caravans) that have fled Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in five major waves since Oct. 12, have been arriving in the refugee-rich city of Tijuana since mid-November. The Mexican government deported at least 200 caravan members from the city, thereby lowering that number.

The sports complex, unfit for inhabitants, was flooded after recent rains, and lice and respiratory infections have become rampant.

Amid state violence by the United States and Mexico at their shared border, the thousands of refugees have been forced to stay in Tijuana as the Donald Trump administration is blocking their entry and asylum applications to the U.S.

On Sunday the migrants were taken by bus to a new shelter set up by the government about 15km from the Otay Mesa port of entry and 22km from San Ysidro. TeleSUR correspondent Alina Duarte says the shelter is in one Tijuana’s most dangerous neighborhoods and some are refusing to relocate there.

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Tijuana officials had said Saturday no one would be forced to move to the new facility, a large concrete concert hall known as El Barretal, but warned that officials will no longer be offering food and medical care at the Benito Juarez complex.

Some from the caravan were also refusing to move to the far-away concrete building saying it was an attempt to split the groups and their collective effort for asylum. “The people in the first shelter were afraid that it was a lie or that they only wanted to divide the caravan so many decided to stay in the stadium although it was in shambles,” Duarte said

The new shelter is being run by federal authorities.

Also Saturday, newly inaugurated Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) signed an agreement with his counterparts from three Central American countries to establish a development plan to stem the flow of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. The existing pact among those countries and the United States, called the Alliance for Prosperity, was rolled out in 2014 with the same said purpose.

The night of AMLO’s Dec. 1 swearing-in, U.S. border patrol agents dressed in full anti-riot gear stood along the length of the U.S. port of entry at Otay Mesa.

The Tijuana Chamber of Food and Restaurant Businesses says it's ready and willing to grant work visas to the asylum seekers. 

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