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After Single Syrian Refugee Arrives, Mexico Still Has No Formal Plans to Receive More

Essa Hassan, 26, reached Mexico through a local aid group for Syrian students, not through government channels. 'I will return,' he told reporters.
Imagen por Ginnette Riquelme/Reuters

Mexico has received its first Syrian refugee, a student named Essa Hassan who landed in the country this week with the help of a group focused on students fleeing the war-torn country.

Hassan was greeted by a group of reporters and supporters at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport on Wednesday. The student thanked the crowd for its support, but emphasized he wished to return to Syria some day.


"I did not want to be a part of that war, so my only choice was to leave the country," Hassan told reporters. "[Syria] is my place, my language, and my country. I will return."

Born and raised in western Syria, Hassan fled in 2012 under fears of being recruited by president Bashar al-Assad's army and being forced to take part in the civil war that has torn his country apart. An estimated nine million Syrians have left their homes since the conflict began, settling in neighboring nations or attempting to reach Europe.

These forced displacements are causing major migration influxes to European nations, leaving thousands stranded at countries like Greece and Hungary.

Related: EU Agrees to Distribute 120,000 Refugees to Member States Despite Strong Opposition

Hassan has been offered a spot at the Panamerican University in the state of Aguascalientes, where he will enroll in a four-year program for a master's degree. Hassan will also receive Spanish classes and will be given time to properly adjust to Mexican culture.

The 26-year-old student arrived to Mexico through a local aid group called Project Habesha, created to help Syrian student migrants in need. The organization collaborated with international groups to pick a total of 30 refugees between 18 and 26 years whose studies had been interrupted by the civil war.

Mexican law currently has no legal procedure to deal with refugees, a situation Project Habesha wishes to change. Mexican foreign secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu earlier this month said the government is considering the possibility of receiving some refugees in the future, but said authorities were barely exploring the topic.

Ruiz Massieu's office did not return calls for comment.

Further south, Uruguay received five Syrian families totaling more than 40 people in 2014. But a few weeks ago, the families requested help from international bodies to get them out of the country. Their case adds up to that of former Guantanamo prisoners sent to Uruguay who later said they would rather be "sent back" to prison rather than staying there. The refugees eventually reached an agreement with the Uruguayan government.

Related: Five Syrian Families in Uruguay Since 2014 Have Packed Their Bags and Want to 'Get Out'

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