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First Muslim refugee shelter in Tijuana opens

The Latina Muslim Foundation have opened a mosque and refugee empowerment center. The center is meant to house 150 refugees at one time.

TIJUANA, Baja California — With the growing number of Muslim migrants in Tijuana, advocates raised money for a refugee shelter that finally opened its doors Saturday. 

With the help of the Latina Muslim Foundation this is the first Muslim refugee shelter in Mexico. While Tijuana has several Mosques around the city, this is a housing shelter that also includes a place for prayers.

Its meant to accommodate 150 migrants and they can stay at the shelter for up to three months.

Living in a predominantly Catholic country where you are not familiar with the area or the language can be a scary time for any Muslim refugee living in a migrant shelter in Tijuana. 

“The culture is different and the language is very different, so everything is just really hard,” said Salarzai. 

Ilyas Salarzai from Afghanistan who is 21-years-old has been dealing with just that, he is Muslim and prays five times a day.

Salarzai says Mexico has been supportive, but being Muslim in this country can sometimes make it impossible for him to practice Islam.  

He says it's because there are some migrants who don’t care to understand his culture and religion, making him feel unsafe to perform his daily prayers.

With the lack of resources and assistance for Muslim families, Latina Muslim Foundation have opened a mosque and refugee empowerment center.

It's in a warehouse about ten minutes away from the border and converted into a two-story shelter with offices for social workers and lawyers, a kitchen, restrooms, space for medical space, and a prayer room stocked with copies of the Quran. 

This shelter will provide a place to pray while also offering housing and legal assistance.  

“It came with a lot of challenges, being Muslim and a Latina in Tijuana trying to build a Muslim shelter was very difficult,” said Sonia Garcia, the president of Latina Muslim Foundation.

Every year the number of Muslim refugees living in Tijuana grows larger. Some of them live here by choice and  others have either fled their country or are deportees seeking asylum.

Which is why this weekend the 8,000 square ft. shelter opened its doors and housed 30 migrants coming from Pakistan, Kenya, Afghanistan and other countries. 

“It is a Muslim shelter, but anyone is invited to be in this shelter. Everyone who is looking for shelter is welcomed.” said Salarzai.

WATCH RELATED: Volunteers set up 'help area' inside Tijuana International Airport to assist Ukrainian refugees (April 2022).


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