Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard welcomes members of Afghanistan's robotics team after arriving in Mexico to apply for humanitarian status, at the Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City, Mexico August 24, 2021. Mexico's Foreign Relations Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
Five members of an all-girl Afghan robotics team arrived in Mexico on Tuesday evening, fleeing an uncertain future at home after the recent collapse of the U.S.-backed government and takeover by the Taliban militant group.
"We give you the warmest welcome to Mexico," said Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado as she greeted them during a news conference at Mexico City's international airport.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last week as the United States and its allies withdrew troops from the country. The White House and U.S. allies are racing to complete the evacuation of all foreigners and vulnerable Afghans before the expiry of an Aug. 31 deadline agreed with the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden said this week.
The team, made up of girls and women as young as 14, has been heralded for winning international awards for its robots and started work in March on an open-source, low-cost ventilator as the coronavirus pandemic hit the war-torn nation.
The Taliban, which previously barred girls from schools and women from working when they ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, has promised to prioritize women's rights and girls' education.
Mexico has pledged to aid Afghan women and girls. Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter on Aug. 18 that the country had begun "processing of the first refugee applications of Afghan citizens, especially women and girls who have requested it," with the aid of Guillermo Puente Ordorica, Ambassador of Mexico in Iran.
Tuesday's safe arrival in Mexico was made possible by an "extensive international effort and coordination from a group of volunteers" who helped the girls, according to a volunteer who requested anonymity for fear of the safety of the families that remain under Taliban control.
The foreign ministry invited press to the arrival gates at Mexico City's airport at 3 a.m. local time on Wednesday, saying a "large group of people from Afghanistan is expected to arrive" and Ebrard will offer a message.
Other members of the robotics team landed in Qatar in recent days.
Reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Diego Ore in Mexico City; Editing by Heather Timmons, Sandra Maler and Michael Perry
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