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Migrants moved miles from border, face long asylum waitlist

By
Patrick Timmons
With growing frustration at the length of the asylum process, migrants climb over the border fence that divides the United States and Mexico on Sunday near Las Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI
With growing frustration at the length of the asylum process, migrants climb over the border fence that divides the United States and Mexico on Sunday near Las Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Thousands of migrants from the Central American caravan in Tijuana, Mexico, have put their names on a waitlist for a preliminary political asylum interview with U.S. authorities -- a wait that could be many months.

U.S. authorities say they can process up to 100 asylum seekers a day.

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As the migrants wait, some 1,700 from the caravan have been moved to a stronger shelter in Tijuana, after rains ruined makeshift tents, soaked blankets, soiled personal possessions and turned the sports stadium where they had been camped into a health risk.

The inhospitable conditions have increased the apparent frustration of thousands of the caravaners, some of whom arrived at this Mexican border city two weeks ago.

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On Sunday, small groups of Central Americans scaled the border wall between Playas de Tijuana and the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The move came a week after hundreds of migrants rushed the U.S. border, prompting U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol officers to fire tear gas and smoke grenades at the crowd, which included many women and children. U.S. officials said agents had been wounded or hit by migrants throwing stones. Mexican authorities arrested and deported those they considered responsible for compromising the city's commitment to public order.

Since being transferred to the new shelter, Tijuana's municipal authorities have refused to provide details about the migrants. They say Mexico's federal government is in charge of providing a head count, security, food, shelter and medical attention at the new refuge. The withdrawal of the city's authorities comes at the behest of Tijuana's mayor, Juan Manuel Gastel├║m, who has repeatedly said he will protect Tijuana from disruptions from the caravan.

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Last week the mayor sent a deputy to Mexico City to petition the United Nations Human Rights Ombudsman and High Commissioner for Refugees to assist the migrants.

Melanie Hernandez, a migrant at the new shelter, said the desperate situation created by the rain has "improved the humanitarian response" offered by Mexican and U.S. non-governmental organizations, many of whom are offering clothes, medical care and some legal services.

The shelter's inhabitants are required to keep the new shelter tidy, refraining from bringing in food and cleaning the bathrooms, migrants told UPI.

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But it is still crowded. Many of the migrants have taken to camping on its flat rooftop.

Meanwhile, Mexico's new presidential administration -- Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was sworn into office on Saturday -- announced new sources of support Sunday for migrants in the state of Baja California.

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