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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 20th July 2018 > Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter

The Trump administration is barring asylum seekers at the Mexican border. Migrants say it’s a permanent purgatory



WHEN MUSLIM RIOTERS BURNED down his shop in northern Nigeria around 2015, Stephen fled the sectarian campaign against Christians like himself and headed south. But soon more violence erupted; government troops clashed with supporters of a secessionist movement in Nigeria’s southeast, echoing the tensions that had plunged the country into civil war 50 years earlier. He had not heard from his father or sister since the riots over a year before, and, fearing for his life, he set out last September for Ecuador and, ultimately, the United States—more than 10,000 miles and an ocean away.

Stephen joined thousands of other migrants along the land route from South America, traveling by foot, bus and boat across seven countries to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they had told him he could claim asylum. Fellow Nigerians, however, abandoned him in the dense Colombian jungle. He was lost for days before another group of Africans and an Indian found him. Later, he risked rough coastal waters at night on a crowded smuggler’s dinghy, although he couldn’t swim, to evade checkpoints in Nicaragua.

Finally, three months after leaving Nigeria, he got off a bus in Tijuana, Mexico. But the migrants and advocates gathered there had bad news: He couldn’t go forward. Six months later, as he cooked stew in a church shelter in the sweltering June heat, he was still waiting.

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