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Mexico rescued several journalists stranded in Afghanistan. Here's how they did it.

The country will welcome even more Afghan journalists, amidst criticism of suppressing migration from other Central American nations.

Mexico rescued several journalists stranded in Afghanistan. Here's how they did it.
Image Source: Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard Holds Press Conference on Situation in Afghanistan. MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 25. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

The Government of Mexico, unlike its Western counterparts such as the United States, was able to successfully cut through the red tape of its immigration policy in order to rescue the families of 24 Afghan journalists working with The New York Times. On Wednesday this week, the families arrived at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City following a harrowing escape from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. The operation was swift and guaranteed the safety of the journalists, thanks in large part to quick decision-making on behalf of Mexican immigration officials. Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard affirmed that the people of Mexico are presently very sympathetic with Afghan refugees, The New York Times reports.


Ebrard shared in an interview with the news outlet, "We are right now committed to a foreign policy promoting free expression, liberties, and feminist values." He cited a national tradition of "welcoming everyone," from Cuban independence leader José Martí to German Jews and South Americans fleeing coups. According to the foreign minister, his government's recent decision to welcome Afghan journalists was made "in order to protect them and to be consistent with this policy."


Ebrard received a text on messaging platform WhatsApp from Azam Ahmed, a former chief of The Times’s Kabul and Mexico bureaus, asking if Mexico would be willing to receive refugees from Afghanistan. He said, "We have people there, good people, who are trying to get out." Initially, the minister responded in the negative but quickly changed course to see if he could circumvent what would otherwise be "hours and hours" of processing as well as a cabinet meeting. Following a call with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who agreed "the situation was moving very fast, and the decision should be taken at the same speed," Ebrard confirmed that Mexico would accept a list of Afghans.


As the situation in Kabul worsened and the city's commercial airport shut down, the journalists boarded American military flights with the assurance that they would transfer from Qatar to a third country. Like Mexico, several other countries have stepped in where the United States has failed. Some European nations, Turkey, and Uzbekistan are some of the international governments filling the vacuum for refugees. Mexico in particular has played an important role. "We are deeply grateful for the help and generosity of the government of Mexico" AG Sulzberger, the publisher of The Times, stated in an email. "Their assistance has been invaluable in getting our Afghan colleagues and their families out of harm’s way. We urge the whole international community to follow this example and continue working on behalf of the many brave Afghan journalists who are still at risk."


Despite the country's liberal position on refugees from Afghanistan, the Mexican government has received some criticism for admitting Afghans while suppressing a wave of migrants from other nations in Central America, including Nicaragua. In response, Ebrard wished "to make clear the difference between economic migrants and the people who are looking for refuge and asylum." He reiterated, "The people in Mexico are very sympathetic with refugees right now in Afghanistan." Furthermore, much remains to be said regarding the nation's track record of protecting its own journalists. Nonetheless, Mexico will now work with other publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to ensure their journalists' safe evacuation from Afghanistan.


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