Samah Abdullhamid, the first Syrian woman refugee in Mexico, is welcomed by students in Mexico City on February 2, 2017
Samah Abdullhamid, the first Syrian woman refugee in Mexico, is welcomed by students in Mexico City on February 2, 2017 © ALFREDO ESTRELLA - AFP
Samah Abdullhamid, the first Syrian woman refugee in Mexico, is welcomed by students in Mexico City on February 2, 2017
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AFP
Last updated: February 4, 2017

Syrian students offered new life in Mexico

Banner Icon As US President Donald Trump curbs migrants' access to the United States, its southern neighbor Mexico is letting certain Syrian refugees settle there to rebuild their lives.

Several Syrian students fleeing their country's civil war are coming to finish their studies in Mexico under the public-private "Habesha" initiative.

"It was a choice between staying to fight for one of the sides, and leaving," said one of them, 28-year-old communications student Essa Hasan.

"I want no part in that war because taking part means killing, and I don't want to kill anybody."

Already brought over from the war-torn city of Aleppo, he came out Thursday to welcome the latest fellow Syrian arriving in Mexico under the program: 26-year-old art student Samah Abdulhamid.

She was surprised to be greeted by crowds of reporters on her arrival.

"I really appreciate this whole initiative," she said.

The Habesha project started three years ago but has drawn renewed interest since Trump last week restricted entry to the United States for immigrants from Syria and other volatile Muslim countries.

Trump has also vowed to stop illegal migrants reaching the United States from Mexico by building a wall.

Project spokesman Luis Samano said organizers aimed to welcome 30 students overall to save them from Syria's "humanitarian catastrophe."

Organizers find them places to finish their studies in Mexico "to rebuild their lives and participate in the rebuilding of their country when they finish their studies or when the conflict ends."

The Habesha project is run by a network of Mexican professionals in contact with international organizations active in areas affected by the Syrian conflict.

The spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency in Mexico, Mariana Echandi, said it was a worthy alternative to official refugee programs between governments.

"It is a way for the local community itself and civil society to mobilize to solve the problem," she told AFP.

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