Mexico welcomes 124 Afghan refugees, most of them journalists

Mexico City, Aug 25 (EFE).- Mexico welcomed 124 Afghan refugees on Wednesday morning, many of them journalists, the Foreign Relations Secretariat announced.

“I welcomed reporters and members of the local staff of different media outlets who have requested humanitarian visas to Mexico in keeping with the latest events in Kabul, Afghanistan. They arrived with their families, 124 people in all including minors, after 20 hours of flight,” Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said in a Twitter post.

The Afghan citizens arrived early Wednesday morning at the Mexico City International Airport, where they were welcomed by a committee headed by Ebrard.

Upon the arrival of the Afghans, Ebrard explained in a message to the media that “Mexico has decided to support the humanitarian, refuge, asylum, humanitarian visa requests for people in Afghanistan who have made (them).”

The foreign secretary said that the refugees “in particular, were working for different communications media, The New York Times and other communications media in Afghanistan.”

Just a few hours before the arrival of the refugees, the Mexican government welcomed five members of an Afghan women’s robotics team and the spouse of one of them, as part of the first refugee requests by Afghan citizens after the takeover of the Central Asian country by the Taliban.

“The position that … (Mexican) President (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) has requested of us that we are maintaining is according to the traditions of Mexico favoring refuge,” Ebrard said.

He said that Mexico “already has more than a century-and-a-half of this tradition” and could not “stop honoring it in this case.”

This was especially because the country, he said, “is committed to freedom of expression, to freedom and independence of communication.”

“So, the only thing left for me is to tell you that Mexico is welcoming you with open arms. Here, you will have all the necessary support and we’re going to continue with this humanitarian position,” Ebrard emphasized upon welcoming the Afghans.

As the foreign secretary told The New York Times, Mexican officials – “in contrast to their counterparts in the United States” – could get around the bureaucracy of the immigration system to “quickly” provide the documents that allowed the 24 Afghan families to fly from the besieged Kabul airport to Doha, Qatar.

And from there, they continued on to Mexico, where they have been guaranteed humanitarian protection while they explore their options for settling in other countries.

As the daily reported, the road from Afghanistan to Mexico was established as per an initiative by Asam Ahmed, who was the chief correspondent in Kabul and Mexico, by sending a message to Ebrard on Aug. 12 to ask him if Mexico would want to take in refugees.

Despite the fact that the foreign minister at first said no, according to The Times, he quickly got in touch with Lopez Obrador to handle the matter.

A few hours later, an aircraft was made available but the situation changed with the Taliban takeover of Kabul, although ultimately the plan to extract the Afghans could be carried out.

The New York Times said that many communications media did not report on the methods being used to get people out of Afghanistan for fear of “flooding the narrow channels of escape.”

“The Times did not promote its arrangement with Mexico. After it was reached, Mexico extended its invitation to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post,” the paper reported.

The Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15 after the group’s fighters entered the city without encountering any resistance and with virtually all Afghan provinces under its control, a situation that spurred former President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country.

The position of women in the new Afghanistan has sparked enormous unease and alarm within the international community given that during the previous 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan they were forced to remain inside the home and not permitted to emerge unless accompanied by a man, along with other restrictions.

Several countries in recent days have begun receiving Afghan refugees.

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