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TIJUANA, Mexico – Authorities the Mexican city of Tijuana said Friday they have begun moving Central American migrants from an overcrowded shelter on the border to an events hall further away.
About 755 migrants boarded buses at the overcrowded sports complex within view of the border late Thursday and early Friday for the trip to the new site about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the nearest border crossing.
Alejandro Magallanes, an assistant to the director of the city's social services department, said authorities hoped to bus over as many migrants as possible Friday. Concerns had been growing over unhealthy conditions at the muddy sports field where migrants are sleeping in small tents.
Magallanes said nobody would be forced to move to the new facility, a large building known as El Barretal that has been used for concerts and other events in the past.
But city officials planned to stop offering food and medical services at the Benito Juarez sports complex next to the border on Friday.
Migrants would be allowed to stay — many who hope to cross don't want to move far away from the border — but they will have to find their own food, Magallanes said.
Experts had expressed concerns about unsanitary conditions at the sports complex where more than 6,000 migrants are packed into a space adequate for half that many people. Mud, lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant.
Magallanes said many migrants squeezed into a gymnasium at the outdoor sports complex amid a steady downpour Thursday night. The complex was covered with mud with the storm. On Friday, rain was intermittent with breaks in the clouds.
Some migrants had found work near the sports complex and were unsure about moving to a place they did not know, though it meant they would have a roof over their heads.
But authorities and residents in Tijuana are concerned the migrants might try to make another mass rush across the border: Their first attempt last weekend led to a brief closure of border crossings that Tijuana residents use to reach jobs and shopping on the U.S. side.
Meanwhile, several migrants swam around or climbed over the border barrier overnight and were detained by U.S. officials.
Six men and one woman jumped or slipped over the border barrier in Tijuana and were quickly detained by customs and border protection agents.
One Honduran man tried to swim to the U.S. side but quickly got in trouble in the rough waters of the Pacific. A Mexican rescue team forcibly pulled him ashore and put him into an ambulance.