Mexico City, Mexico — Afghan journalists who worked for The New York Times flew with their families to Mexico City after the Mexican government rushed to provide them with travel documents.
“We are deeply grateful for the help and generosity of the Mexican government,” said AG Sulzberger, editor and president of The New York Times.
A group of 124 Afghans landed safely early Wednesday at the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City after being helped by Mexican authorities.
“The arrival of the families was the latest stopover in a terrible flight from Kabul. Mexico’s role in rescuing journalists from The Times and, if all goes according to plan, The Wall Street Journal, offers a confusing glimpse into the situation of the US government, as two of the most powerful news organizations in the country they desperately sought help from Washington,” wrote Ben Smith in the NYT.
“Mexican officials, unlike their counterparts in the United States, managed to overcome the bureaucracy of their immigration system to quickly provide the documents that, in turn, allowed Afghans to fly from the besieged Kabul airport to Doha, Qatar. The documents promised that Afghans would receive temporary humanitarian protection in Mexico while they explored future options in the United States or other countries,” he said.
The Secretary of Foreign Relations, Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico had opened its doors to Afghan journalists “in order to protect them and to be consistent with this policy. We did not have time for the normal official channels,” said the chancellor.
Ben Smith wrote that Ebrard was at home when he received a message from Azam Ahmed, who was head of the correspondents in Kabul and Mexico but is currently on leave to write a book.
“Is the government of Mexico willing to receive refugees from Afghanistan?” Asked Ahmed. “We have people there, good people who are trying to get out,” he added.
Ebrard responded in principle that it would not be possible. Then he said he thought about whether his secretariat could get around what would typically require “hours and hours” of processing and a cabinet meeting. “So I called the president and explained the situation to him,” he said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed that “the situation was moving very quickly and the decision had to be made just as quickly,” Ebrard told the NYT.
“We saw this request not as a foreign policy between Mexico and the United States,” he continued. “Rather, it’s a simple stand-off between someone who was a reporter in Kabul a few years ago and me, who was in a position to make some decisions.”
Within hours, Ebrard responded telling Ahmed that he was ready to give assurances, to a charter plane or another government, that he would accept a list of Afghans.
“Mexico’s help to rescue the US allies contradicts the image that the country usually has in the divisive immigration policy,” he said not wanting to expand on the irony. “Perhaps society in the United States is not aware of the Mexican tradition regarding refugees,” he said lightheartedly.
The Mexican government is now seeking to extend similar protections to other journalists and women who are at risk in Afghanistan, Ebrard added.
“We are deeply grateful for the help and generosity of the Mexican government,” AG Sulzberger, editor and president of The New York Times wrote.
“Your help has been invaluable in putting our Afghan colleagues and their families out of harm’s way. We urge the entire international community to follow this example and to continue working on behalf of the brave Afghan journalists who are still at risk.”
NYT said that although the United States has increased its evacuation flights, the US immigration system, politicized and bureaucratic, has had difficulties responding to the crisis.
Earlier this month, the government of Mexico announced it had already begun accepting refugee applications for Afghan citizens wanting to flee their country.