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TIJUANA, Mexico: From Algeria, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, citizens of distant Muslim countries wait for U.S. asylum at a shelter in the Mexican border city of Tijuana – more accustomed to seeing migrants from Latin America than the Middle East.
At Assabil Inn, Mexico’s first shelter for Muslim migrants bound for the U.S., the guests’ stories are as diverse as the languages ​​they speak.
“Almost everyone has the same faith. So you can feel like you are among your brothers and sisters,” Maitham Alojaili, a 26-year-old who fled civil war-torn Sudan, told AFP before joining Friday prayers at the facility’s mosque.
“People are being kidnapped. Anything could happen. Sometimes when you leave home, there is a very high risk of not coming back,” Alojaili said of the circumstances that forced him to abandon everything in search of a better life far away.
Data released this week by Mexico’s National Migration Institute shows that about 1.39 million people from 177 countries have passed through the country this year, trying to enter the United States without entry documents.
This number represents almost the entire world – the United Nations has 193 member states.
Most came from Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Haiti.

Increasingly, migrants from the Middle East and North Africa are also taking the dangerous route through South and Central America.
For many, this means traveling on foot through the dangerous Darien Gap, a dense jungle on the border of Colombia and Panama, full of dangerous animals, criminals and human traffickers.
Yusseph Rahnali, a 31-year-old Algerian, told AFP he chose the United States “because they accept everyone.”
He stated that Europe was not an option due to visa requirements. Instead, he flew visa-free to Ecuador, then crossed into seven other countries and headed to Mexico, where he is awaiting news on the U.S. asylum process.
Migration is at the heart of the campaign for the November US presidential elections.
Incumbent President Joe Biden, who is seeking re-election, signed an executive order this month closing the border to asylum seekers after they reach certain daily limits.
On Tuesday, in an attempt to offset a crackdown criticized by the left and human rights groups, he announced a new potential citizenship path for immigrants married to U.S. citizens – which in turn was met with fierce opposition from conservatives.

In Tijuana, 29-year-old Afghan journalist Fanah Ahmadi told AFP he traveled to Brazil on a humanitarian visa and then through “nine or ten other countries” to get to Mexico.
“There are many difficulties along the way, but I am still grateful that… I am here today,” Ahmadi said from the Assabil inn, where migrants receive food and shelter, “and we are also close to the border.”
The inn, opening in 2022, can accommodate up to 200 people and allows Muslims to pray and eat halal food. The stay can last from a week to seven months.
“Muslims have their home here in Tijuana,” said founder Sonia Garcia, a Mexican who converted to Islam through marriage.
According to American data, in 2023, a record 2.4 million people crossed the US-Mexico border without travel documents.
The flow peaked at 10,000 people a day in December and has since decreased amid a crackdown by both countries.
For statistical purposes, U.S. officials divide migrants from Muslim countries into the “other” category because of their small numbers compared to migrants from Latin America, India or Russia.
Trump, as US president, banned immigrants from Muslim countries, which has since been rescinded.
He stepped up his anti-immigration rhetoric during the campaign, claiming that migrants were “poisoning the blood” of the United States.

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