Some 2,000 Central American migrants have swarmed across the Mexican border from Guatemala and are heading for the United States. Mexican border control agents tried to stop the migrants at its Guatemala border but many simply swam or rafted across a river and crossed into Mexico. Once across, the migrants reformed their caravan and continued their journey north.
The migrants said they had made the decision to cross into Mexico illegally because the Mexican border asylum application procedure was too slow. Once the crossing had been made, the migrants gathered on October 20th, where a group decision was taken to continue the journey north. The group has continued the journey from Central America despite warnings from US President Donald Trump, who said they should turn back.
Mexican authorities had stopped the group of migrants at the border. A decision was made to deny mass entry to the migrants. Instead, border control agents accepted small groups at a time for asylum processing. Visitor permits, valid for 45 days, where then issued to migrants. In a move that is reflective of the US method of handling large groups, Mexican authorities handed out numbers to migrants. The numbers indicated when each person would be processed.
Despite the efforts by Mexican authorities the process was still time consuming. As a result, many decided not to wait and began wading across the river separating Mexico from Guatemala. The river crossing took place in full view of Mexican border control agents. No effort was made to apprehend the migrants once they had crossed the river.
"We couldn't wait because we had already waited too long and they only told us lies," said Erasmo Duarte, a migrant from Danli, Honduras. He had joined the caravan with his wife and children six days previously. Sairy Bueso, a 24-year old Honduran mother of two, was another migrant who abandoned the bridge and crossed into Mexico via the river. She clutched her two-year-old daughter, Dayani, who had recently had a heart operation, as she got off a raft. "The girl suffered greatly because of all the people crowded on the bridge,” Bueso said. "There are risks that we must take for the good of our children."
Group leaders said the caravan, which is now smaller than the original caravan that set out, would begin travelling towards the city of Tapachula on October 21st. Scarleth Cruz (20), said she was going to ask for political asylum in Mexico. This is due to the threats and repression she faced back in Honduras by President Juan Orlando Hernandez's governing party. "Why would I want to go to the United States if I'm going to be persecuted there as well?” she asked. Mexico's Interior Department said in a statement that it had received 640 refugee requests by Hondurans at the border crossing. It released photos of migrants getting off buses at a shelter and receiving food and medical attention.
Migrants have cited widespread poverty and gang violence in Honduras as a main reason for joining the caravan. The country is regarded as one of the world's deadliest nations, measured by its homicide rate. "One cannot live back there," said Fidelina Vasquez, a grandmother traveling with her daughter and two-year-old grandson.
The creation and continued movement of the caravan resulted in a series of angry tweets and warnings from Trump earlier in the week but Mexico's firm handling of the migrants at its southern border seems to have satisfied him more recently. "So as of this moment, I thank Mexico," Trump said on October 19th. "I hope they continue. But as of this moment, I thank Mexico. If that doesn't work out, we're calling up the military — not the Guard." "They're not coming into this country," Trump added.
An emergency meeting was held in Guatemala between Honduras’ President Juan Hernandez and Jimmy Morales, the President of Guatemala. Morales said some 5,400 migrants had entered his country since the caravan had been announced the week before. About 2,000 Hondurans have returned voluntarily. As reported by AP, one Honduran migrant died in the town of Villa Nueva, which is about 30 kilometres from Guatemala City. The victim fell from a truck and died.