Mexico says will not accept return of at-risk US asylum seekers

Central American migrants heading to the United States with a second caravan, are seen in Huixtla, Chiapas state after crossing the border from Guatemala, in southern Mexico. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Mexico says will not accept return of at-risk US asylum seekers

  • Mexico said it would accept some Central American asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons
  • Serious doubts exist over whether Mexico can keep Central American asylum seekers who are fleeing poverty and crime safe

MEXICO CITY: Two US-Mexico meetings have been held to work out details of a new plan to return across the shared border migrants seeking US asylum, but Mexico will not accept anybody facing a credible threat back home, a Mexico Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
In a major policy change, US President Donald Trump’s administration said on Dec. 20 it would send non-Mexican migrants who cross the US southern border back to wait in Mexico while their US asylum requests are processed.
At the time, Mexico said it would accept some Central American asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons, in what many saw as an early concession to Trump by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1.
Trump is demanding $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the Mexican border, triggering a 33-day US government shutdown which has left 800,000 federal workers without pay.
In an interview on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco said Mexico cannot accept the return of migrants who are “in danger.”
“If they return people that are vulnerable, that have a founded fear of persecution in Mexico, or people that require some special attention, we don’t have resources to address that,” he said.
Velasco did not say how Mexico and the United States would determine which asylum seekers were at risk in Mexico. Last year about 93,000 people sought asylum at the southern border, up 67% from 2017, according to US government data.
Serious doubts exist over whether Mexico can keep Central American asylum seekers who are fleeing poverty and crime safe, especially in border towns that are often more violent than the cities they left. Authorities are investigating the recent deaths of two Honduran teenagers kidnapped and killed in the border city of Tijuana.
It is unclear how Mexico plans to house what could be thousands of asylum seekers for the months, or years, it takes US immigration cases to be heard. A backlog of more than 800,000 cases is pending in immigration courts.
Velasco said Mexico’s interior and foreign ministries had held two meetings since the announcement in which the two sides discussed details such as at what time and in what ports of entry asylum seekers would be returned to Mexico.
“We are going to accept certain people, with a notification to appear before a court in the United States. Now we are explaining who those certain people are. We are trying to understand how they would return them. Under what conditions.”
In a move that may make it easier for Mexico to accept Central Americans returned by the United States, Mexico has started handing out “humanitarian” visas to Central American migrants. Holders of the one-year visas can apply for a work permit.
Mexico’s Immigration Office said it has received more than 10,000 requests for humanitarian visas, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
“We are registering their entry into Mexico and giving them legal status in Mexico,” said Velasco.
No date has been set for the United States to start returning migrants to Mexico, Velasco said.


Austria far-right figure probed over New Zealand attacker link

Updated 9 min 46 sec ago
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Austria far-right figure probed over New Zealand attacker link

  • The far-right leader added that authorities had seized his computer and phone during Monday’s raid on his apartment in Vienna
VIENNA: Austrian investigators have raided the apartment of a far-right group leader over possible links to the man behind deadly attacks on two mosques in New Zealand, officials said Tuesday.
Martin Sellner of the Identitarian Movement Austria (IBOe) said in a video uploaded online late Monday that he had received a donation, possibly from Christchurch gunman Brenton Tarrant.
But he denied having any connection to the March 15 assault, which claimed 50 lives, and instead blamed Tarrant for seeking to involve him by making the donation.
“I have nothing to do with this terror attack,” Sellner said in the video, adding his group’s was a peaceful anti-immigration movement.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who governs Austria in a coalition with a far-right party, on Tuesday called for a “complete and unsparing” investigation of any links.
Sellner said he had had no contact with Tarrant, but had found an email with a “disproportionally large” donation with the name “Tarrant” in the email address.
Sellner said he had sent a “thank you” reply prior to the New Zealand attack as he did with other donation emails.
The far-right leader added that authorities had seized his computer and phone during Monday’s raid on his apartment in Vienna.
The prosecutor’s office in the southern city of Graz said authorities had noticed the suspicious email address while probing the donation of around 1,500 euros ($1,700), which exceeded the usual sums given to IBOe.
Officials confirmed last week that Tarrant, who traveled extensively in Europe, also visited Austria. According to media reports, he arrived in Vienna on November 26 and visited several other places within Austria, including Salzburg and Innsbruck.
The 28-year-old was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder. The Australian white supremacist streamed his shooting rampage online.
Last March, Sellner was prevented from entering the UK, with authorities saying his presence would not have been “conducive to the public good.”