WASHINGTON: Asylum seekers hoping to enter the US via its southern border will have to wait in Mexico while they are assessed, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday, appearing to confirm a report about a bilateral deal published by The Washington Post.

The move was cautiously welcomed by some refugees currently at the border, even as Mexico’s incoming interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero, who was quoted by the Post as confirming the agreement, later issued a denial.

“Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

He added that the US “will allow those who come into our Country legally” and emphasised: “All will stay in Mexico.” The deal, which would overhaul US border policy, comes with Trump outraged over the presence of thousands of Central American migrants who marched to Mexico’s border city of Tijuana hoping to enter the US for a better life free from the poverty and gang violence in their homelands.

“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” the Post quoted Sanchez Cordero as saying. The government of new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will enter office on Dec 1.

But her office later issued a statement saying: “There is no agreement of any type between the future federal government of Mexico and that of the United States of America.” Trump has sent almost 6,000 soldiers to the Mexican border in support of Customs and Border Protection agents and National Guard troops already there, to forestall what Trump has called an “invasion” by “very bad people.” After a trek of more than a month from Honduras, nearly 5,000 migrants — including women and children — are now in Tijuana living in a makeshift shelter.

Trump “is within his right. He is in his government,” but he is not like other presidents in his views of migrants, said a resident of the shelter, Carolina Flores, 38, of Honduras.

“He sees us as a bug that is going to eat there,” she added. “We come for an opportunity!” Another Honduran in the shelter, Orlinda Morales, 31, a housewife, said the reported new asylum rules seem “very good” because migrants will not be in limbo. “We will get work here,” she said.

Hundreds of the migrants lined up this week at a special jobs fair set up for them in the manufacturing city, but others remain determined to reach the US.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018

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