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TIJUANA, Mexico: Citizens of far-flung Muslim countries from Algeria, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan wait for US asylum at a shelter in the Mexican border city of Tijuana – more used to migrants from Latin America than the Middle East.
At the Assabil Inn, Mexico’s first shelter for US-bound Muslim migrants, guests’ stories are as varied as the choice of languages ​​they speak.
“Almost everyone shares the same faith. So it feels like you are among your brothers and sisters,” Maitham Alojaili, 26, who fled civil war in Sudan, told AFP before joining Friday prayers at the facility’s mosque .
“People are kidnapped. Anything can happen. Sometimes when you leave home, there’s a very high chance you won’t come back,” Alojaili said of the circumstances that forced him to leave everything behind and seek a better life far away. .
Data released this week by Mexico’s National Migration Institute said that so far this year, some 1.39 million people from 177 countries have traveled through the country trying to reach 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.

Migrants from the Middle East and North Africa are increasingly making the dangerous journey through South and Central America.
For many, it involves a journey on foot through the dangerous Darien Gap, a dense jungle on the border of Colombia and Panama that is 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.”
According to him, Europe is out of the question because of visa requirements. Instead, he flew visa-free to Ecuador and then transited through seven other countries to Mexico, where he is awaiting word on his U.S. asylum process.
Migration is at the heart of the campaign ahead of the US presidential election in November.
In his bid for re-election, incumbent Joe Biden signed an executive order this month to close the border to asylum seekers after certain daily limits are reached.
On Tuesday, in an effort to balance the crackdown criticized by the left and rights groups, he announced a new potential path to citizenship for immigrants married to U.S. citizens — a move condemned by conservatives.

In Tijuana, 29-year-old Afghan journalist Fanah Ahmadi told AFP he traveled to Brazil on a humanitarian visa, then through “nine or ten other countries” to get to Mexico.
“There are many difficulties on 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, which opened in 2022, can accommodate up to 200 people and allows Muslims to pray and eat halal. The stay can last from one week to seven months.
“Muslims have their home here in Tijuana,” said founder Sonia Garcia, a Mexican convert to Islam through marriage.
In 2023, according to US data, a record 2.4 million people crossed the US-Mexico border without travel documents.
In December, the flow hit as many as 10,000 people a day, which has since declined as both countries took action.
For statistical purposes, migrants from Muslim countries are grouped by US officials into a category labeled “other”, due to their small numbers compared to migrants from Latin America, India or Russia.
As US president, Trump banned migrants from entering Muslim countries in a measure that has since been rescinded.
During the campaign, he stepped up his anti-immigration rhetoric, declaring that migrants were “poisoning the blood” of the United States.

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