Ukrainian refugees become a destination for thousands of migrants

157
3
Ukrainian refugees become a destination for thousands of migrants

A group of Ukrainians arrive at a shelter in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, April 21, 2022. GREGORY BULL AP California is increasingly becoming a destination for Ukrainian refugees as thousands of them travel to Mexico's northern border in a bid to seek asylum in the United States.

The US government announced last month that it would accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, but it hasn't said when the formal resettlement process will begin.

Many Ukrainians have decided to arrive in Mexico, a country they can enter without visa, to ask US immigration agents to let them in on humanitarian grounds.

In the border city of Tijuana, which has become a popular transit point for Ukrainian refugees, authorities have turned a sports complex into a makeshift shelter. The new arrivals wait days in the shelter for their turn to be allowed entry into California. According to a report by The New York Times on Wednesday, some people sleep in tents or on the floor of converted gyms.

More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country since February 24, when Russia began its special military operation, according to the UN refugee agency. Since the city started seeing arrivals on March 11, a surprising influx of Ukrainian refugees has occurred in Tijuana, according to Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for the city.

While he expects all the migrants to arrive in the US, Lucero said the US authorities have been slow to process them, and that's why so many people have gathered.

On a case-by-case basis, the Department of Homeland Security allows Ukrainians to be exempt from the pandemic restrictions brought in during the presidency of Donald Trump. The curbs resulted in the expulsion of migrants on the US-Mexico border in order to prevent the spread of COVID 19 in holding facilities.

The restrictions on entry were kept by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, except for unaccompanied children and some families. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on May 23 that the restrictions will end on May 23.

Dozens of Ukrainian children have been separated from relatives, friends or older siblings with whom they traveled to the US southern border because of a law devised to prevent migrant children from being trafficked, according to the Times report.

The law requires the US border authorities to place unaccompanied minors in government shelters, where they must remain until their guardians have been approved and screened.

The separations became controversial in 2018 when the Trump administration intentionally removed children from migrant parents to discourage border crossings. Many of the children, many of whom fled gang violence in Central America, were sent to government shelters.

Volunteers working with refugees said they have counted at least 50, despite the fact that the US authorities haven't released figures on how many Ukrainian children have been separated from caregivers. They said that up to 20 children have been arriving in Tijuana every day with someone other than a parent.

Hundreds of Ukrainians seeking asylum at the border have already crossed into California from Mexico. They will likely go to cities that already have large Ukrainian communities.

The Sacramento area in California is home to the highest concentration of Ukrainian immigrants in the US, with 1 in every 125 residents of Ukrainian descent, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The areas of New York City, Chicago and Seattle are also hubs.