(CNN) – Hundreds of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war in their country have arrived in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, seeking asylum in the United States and more are expected to arrive, a US official told CNN on Saturday. volunteer.
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“About the moment in Tijuana, there are about 1,500 Ukrainians,” said Enrique Lucero, director of immigration affairs for the city of Tijuana. “We have had a surprising influx over the past four days, mainly because after the conflict we started seeing arrivals from March 11, and it was arrivals of 30 people, not the large numbers we see now.”
Ukrainians seeking asylum in the United States sit near a border camp in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 2, 2022. (Credit: GUILLERMO ARIAS / AFP via Getty Images)
Inna Levien, a California resident who belongs to a group that promotes a voluntary effort to help Ukrainians near the border, told CNN the number of refugees from this country has quadrupled in the past three days. “Another 100 people arrived at the airport in the past half hour,” he said.
The volunteer group, consisting of California mothers who met on Facebook, provided families with necessities such as food, blankets, tents and toys to keep kids busy.
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Those with funds are encouraged to stay in hotels, which cost between $ 40 and $ 60 a night, Levien said.
Once the migrants arrive at the border, Levien’s group puts them on a list and assigns them a number. That way, they do not have to wait in line all the time to get in. She said the wait to cross could take more than 24 hours.
Aerial photo of a temporary camp for Ukrainians seeking asylum in the United States, on the Mexican side of San Ysidro Port, Tijuana, on April 2, 2022. (Credit: GUILLERMO ARIAS / AFP via Getty Images)
Lucero told CNN he expects all migrants to enter the United States. But he added that US authorities were slow to process it.
“That is why many people came together. They process like 100, 150 per day or even 200 per day and it takes almost three hours to process. It takes time, so we saw this mini-camp on the border, ”Lucero explained.
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The Department of Homeland Security allows Ukrainians, on a case-by-case basis, to be released from the restrictions placed by the Trump administration on the US-Mexico border. That policy, known as Title 42, will end on May 23, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.
The city of Tijuana was instrumental in providing aid, Levien said. The city recently converted a bus stop into a temporary shelter. A network of churches has also emerged to help families as they wait their turn to be processed, Levien added.
Lucero told CNN in Tijuana they are also working on converting a sports facility into a temporary shelter to accommodate all the new arrivals.
“We have been informed that approximately 500 migrants will arrive on these next flights. It will therefore increase to 2,000 during the day, ”he said.
CNN has reached out to the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but has yet to hear back.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.
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