Mexico’s incoming government denies deal to host US asylum seekers

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Mexico’s incoming government has denied a report that it plans to allow asylum seekers to wait in the country while their claims move through US immigration courts.

The deal was seen as a way to dissuade thousands of Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the US, a process that can take years.

In effect, Mexican border towns are already acting as waiting rooms for migrants hoping to start new lives in the US due to bottlenecks at the border.

“There is no agreement of any sort between the incoming Mexican government and the US government,” Mexico’s future interior minister Olga Sanchez said in a statement.

Hours earlier, The Washington Post quoted her as saying the incoming administration of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had agreed to allow migrants to stay in Mexico as a “short-term solution” while the US considered their applications for asylum. Mr Lopez Obrador will take office on December 1.

The statement shared with The Associated Press said the future government’s principal concern related to the migrants is their wellbeing while in Mexico.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the administration of US President Donald Trump has won support from the Mexican president-elect’s team for a plan dubbed “Remain in Mexico”.

The newspaper also quoted Ms Sanchez as saying: “For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico.”

Ms Sanchez did not explain in the statement why The Washington Post had quoted her as saying there had been agreement.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said: “President Trump has developed a strong relationship with the incoming (Lopez) Obrador Administration, and we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues.”

Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, described the Remain in Mexico plan as a strategy to take away the ability of migrants to live and work in the US while cases are processed.

“The hope is that asylum seekers will not want to live in (Mexico) for months/years and won’t come,” Ms Leutert said via Twitter.

US officials have said for months that they were working with Mexico to find solutions for what they have called a border crisis.

One variation, called “Safe Third”, would have denied asylum claims on the grounds that asylum seekers had found haven in Mexico.

President Enrique Pena Nieto offered thousands of Central Americans asylum on October 26 if they agreed to remain in southern Mexico. Close to 3,000 migrants took Mexico up on the offer.

Ms Sanchez said that the next government does not plan for Mexico to become a “Safe Third” country.

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