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

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.


New virus cases in China fall for 2nd day, deaths top 2,000

In this picture taken on February 14, 2020, a Malaysia Airlines hostess (R) wearing a protective face mask checks the temperature of a Chinese passenger before she boards a flight to Beijing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 13 sec ago

New virus cases in China fall for 2nd day, deaths top 2,000

  • China may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading

BEIJING: New virus cases in China continued to fall Wednesday, with 1,749 new infections and 136 new deaths announced after China’s leader said disease prevention and control was at “a critical time.”
The much-criticized quarantine of a cruise ship in Japan to avoid spreading the virus ends later in the day. The 542 cases on the ship were the most in any place outside of China and medical experts have called the quarantine a failure.
The updated figures on the COVID-19 illness for mainland China bring the total for cases to 74,185 and deaths to 2,004. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 daily for the past two days.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the efforts to control the outbreak in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in state media.
Separately, the UN secretary-general told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.” Antonio Guterres said in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”
China has locked down several cities in central Hubei province where the outbreak hit hardest, halting nearly all transportation and movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.
China also may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry’s biggest events, China’s biannual auto show, was postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or canceled.
Many countries set up border screenings and airlines canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused almost 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Five deaths have been reported outside the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France.
The largest number of cases outside China is the 542 on the Diamond Princess at a port near Tokyo.
South Korea evacuated six South Koreans and a Japanese family member from the ship, and they began an additional 14-day quarantine Wednesday. More than 300 American passengers were evacuated earlier and are quarantined in the United States, including at least 14 who had tested positive for the virus.
On Tuesday, the US government said the more than 100 American passengers who stayed on the ship or were hospitalized in Japan would have to wait for another two weeks before they could return to the US
The US also upgraded its travel advisory for China to Level 4, telling its citizens not to travel to anywhere in the country and advising those currently in China to attempt to depart by commercial means.
“In the event that the situation further deteriorates, the ability of the US Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to US nationals within China may be limited. The United States is not offering chartered evacuation flights from China,” the notice said.
“We strongly urge US citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home,” the notice said. The US previously flew out scores of its citizens on charter flights from Wuhan but does not have any further plans to do so, it said.
Despite, such warnings, the capital Beijing was showing signs of coming back to life this week, with road traffic at around a quarter of usual up from virtually nothing a week ago. While most restaurants, stores and office buildings remained closed, others had reopened. People entering were required to have their temperatures taken and register their contact information.