Up to 400 Ukrainians, 30% of whom are children, arrived in Tijuana last weekend, fleeing war in their homeland to seek asylum in the United States, immigration authorities said.
The migrants were placed in a temporary shelter Saturday at the Benito Juárez sports center, about 1 kilometer from the San Ysidro port of entry, according to officials. Around 1,700 Ukrainians have arrived in the city in recent weeks.
Enrique Lucero, Tijuana’s municipal migration affairs director, told the news agency Reuters that the city expects the refugees to keep arriving.
When migrants arrive at the shelter, they are given a number and entered into a queue to be processed at the border. They generally have to wait about 30 hours before being seen by U.S. immigration authorities.
About 10 California volunteers of Ukrainian origin arrived on Friday to welcome the migrants at Tijuana International Airport and help them with the immigration process.
The Baja California deputy minister for migration affairs, Adriana Espinoza Nolasco, said the shelter was created after there was an increase in the number of people arriving from Ukraine and congregating in an unsafe location near the border.
“People come directly to the shelter. Here they start by being assigned a number, and all this is down to the work of the volunteers. The shelter will be here indefinitely and will have everything necessary so that the people who are arriving can finish their process to reach the United States,” Espinoza added.
Nassar, a refugee from Kiev traveling with his two younger brothers, took residence in the shelter on Saturday. He aims to relocate to California, after having passed through Germany, Poland, Spain and Mexico City.
“I’m very grateful for all the treatment they are giving us, and I feel much safer seeing how they are receiving us and being in this shelter together with my brothers,” he said.
Many Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Mexico via the Mexico City and Cancún international airports, Lucero said. Almost 4.25 million people have fled Ukraine to various world destinations since the conflict started in late February, according to the United Nations. U.S. President Joe Biden said in late March that the United States would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians to resettle in the country this year.
Meanwhile, a group of Russian refugees who spent a week camped at San Ysidro and were refused entry were quietly admitted into the U.S. at the end of March in a secret deal with Mexican officials, the news site Vice reported.