A caravan of migrants from Honduras destined to reach the United States faced resistance from Guatemalan uniforms on Sunday. Border guards used wooden truncheons to chase away the pressing crowd. The outgoing US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on his country’s border with Mexico on Friday in the wake of the migrant march.
The caravan set off on Friday morning from the Honduran industrial city of San Pedro Sula, 180 km north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Since then, the group has been joined by other people fleeing poverty and lawlessness, explains CNN. Guatemala – according to the immigration authorities of the country – arrived on Friday between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants from Honduras. Although the Guatemalan police used to block such groups, the authorities initially decided to pass the crowd across the border when it turned out that there were many families with children among the migrants, the head of the local police told AFP.
On Sunday, however, some three thousand Guatemalan border guards gathered along the caravan route. Clashes took place in Vado Hondo and Chiquimula in the south-eastern part of the country. The guards used wooden clubs to repel the pressing crowd. As reported by local authorities, an unspecified number of people were injured.
Guatemala’s foreign ministry on Saturday asked the Honduran authorities to “control the mass exodus of residents by taking permanent preventive measures,” reported the AFP. The same request was made by the Guatemalan authorities in October, when the convoy of around 4,000 departed from Honduras and began to march towards the US. Some of the procession was turned back at the border by Guatemalan services, the rest dispersed over time.
They are fleeing poverty and violence in a region hit by pandemic and hurricanes
Migrants are headed towards the Mexican border, where the military and police are also on standby. There, the group could be dispersed as Mexico has an agreement with the United States obliging it to stem the flow of migrants.
The reasons for leaving Honduras are the same as for years: fleeing poverty, poor health and education, and violence from street gangs, which makes Honduras one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
In addition, the two devastating hurricanes that hit Honduras last year worsened the already dramatic economic situation of a country plunged in addition to a pandemic crisis, reports CNN.
Many of those people who are now marching through Guatemala with backpacks and masks on their faces – fearing the coronavirus – are hoping that President elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, will soften US immigration policy after taking office, AFP writes.
Test for Biden
On Thursday, the head of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, Mark Morgan, called on migrants from Honduras to “not waste time, money or risk their health” trying to get to the United States. On Saturday, Morgan announced that Guatemala is implementing an agreement with Washington under which it is to detain migrants heading to the US.
Outgoing President Donald Trump announced another state of emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday. It first introduced such a regime in February 2019.
The several thousand migrant march “could be an early test of Biden’s immigration policy, who promised to relax the asylum laws introduced by the Trump administration,” comments the New York Times.
The NYT recalls that Biden made a reservation – in making his election promises – that the relaxation of immigration laws would not happen immediately, and that it would take about six months to develop a “more humane policy”.
In recent years, thousands of migrants have traveled through Guatemala and Mexico to the US border. However, after the 2018 and 2019 caravans, Mexico, in agreement with the US, sent 26,000 to its border. soldiers to stop the influx of migrants.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / Esteban Biba