Honduran migrant caravan rumbles on through Guatemala

Central American migrants first started forming caravans heading to the US at the end of 2018
Central American migrants first started forming caravans heading to the US at the end of 2018  

Esquipulas (Guatemala) (AFP) - More than 1,000 Honduran migrants broke through a police barrier on the border with Guatemala on Thursday in a bid to join hundreds of others heading for the United States.

The migrants, many fleeing poverty and gang violence at home, passed through a police cordon without difficulty and without going through migration protocol at the southeastern city of Agua Caliente, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

The latest Central American migrant caravan formed despite increased attempts by President Donald Trump to keep them out of the US.

Last year the US signed a deal with Guatemala that obliges migrants traveling through it and seeking asylum in the US to first request protection in the Central American nation.

Dozens of Guatemalan security forces were deployed at border areas to check that Hondurans had passed through immigration control.

They also checked that children were traveling with either a parent or guardian.

Around 3,000 migrants were believed to be heading through the country towards its border with Mexico, Guatemalan immigration authorities said.

Several US Customs and Border Protection officers were assisting local authorities, the US Embassy in Guatemala told AFP.

Before the migrants were allowed to cross into Guatemala, local and US officials took part in joint ID checks, also aimed at detecting gang members.

The migrants, including some children, left San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras on Tuesday night and from Wednesday began entering Guatemala.

Authorities in Guatemala say more than 2,200 people passed through either the Agua Caliente checkpoint in the southeast or El Cinchado in the northeast.

- 'It's better to flee' -

"We're heading on towards the American dream," Kelvin Ramos told AFP from a migrant center at the border town of Esquipulas.

"I've heard they pay well in the United States to paint houses," he added. That was his job in Honduras.

Many migrants that pass the El Cinchado border split up at that point, the local human rights department spokeswoman, Aleida Serrato, told AFP.

"It's better to walk (and) flee the country," said Mariano de Jesus as he waited to cross into Guatemala, while blaming Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez for his country's troubles.

De Jesus used to work as a builder's assistant but said his job "is worth nothing."

Thousands of Central Americans from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala started forming migrant caravans heading for the US towards the end of 2018.

It angered Trump -- who, while campaigning for election, vowed to build a wall along the southern US border with Mexico to keep out migrants -- so much that he threatened punitive measures against Central American governments if they did not stem the tide.

Last year, Trump sent 6,000 troops to the southern border with Mexico and warned of an "invasion" of gang members and criminals.

Around 30,000 Honduran migrants remain in Mexico waiting for a response to their US asylum requests.

New Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei, who was sworn in on Tuesday, said on Wednesday that he would not allow the Honduran migrants to cross into Mexico.


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