22 Oct 2018

Migrants on the move from Mexico-Guatemala border

4:52 pm on 22 October 2018

Thousands of people travelling from Central American nations to try to enter the United States have resumed their journey from southern Mexico to the US border.

Aerial view of Honduran migrants heading in a caravan to the US, on the road linking Ciudad Hidalgo and Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico.

Aerial view of Honduran migrants heading in a caravan to the US, on the road linking Ciudad Hidalgo and Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico. Photo: AFP

Early in the day, the large convoy started walking northwards from the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo.

Mexican authorities had tried to stop them at a border bridge between Mexico and Guatemala.

But some managed to cross into Mexico illegally by boat over the Suchiate river.

The group, mostly from Honduras, said they were fleeing violence and poverty, and included women and children.

An estimated 10 percent of the population of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have fled danger, forced gang recruitment and dismal economic opportunities.

The region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

The Associated Press news agency reports that 2000 migrants, voting by a show of hands, took the decision to continue their journey.

"Let's all walk together!" and "Yes, we can!" they said. They were not detained by the authorities upon crossing the border.

Others migrants remain stranded at the border in an attempt to enter Mexico legally.

Mexican authorities accepted small groups for asylum processing and handed out 45-day visitor permits to others.

Some boarded transport organised by the Guatemalan authorities at Tecun Uman to return to Honduras voluntarily.

One migrant, who has a prosthetic leg, said he was determined to reach the US.

"I'm looking for a better future for my children. It's been difficult but you have to fight for what you want.

"I am asking President [Donald] Trump to help us...people like me...who want to survive."

President Trump has repeatedly warned the migrants to turn back, threatening to close down the US border and cut aid to countries allowing the group to pass.

In tweets, he said efforts were being made to "stop the onslaught of illegal aliens". He suggested the convoy was politically motivated.

"The Caravans are a disgrace to the Democrat Party. Change the immigration laws NOW!"

What happened on the border?

Many of the migrants temporarily broke through barriers on a bridge which crosses the river border between Guatemala and Mexico.

Dozens of Mexican police in riot gear fired tear gas to force them to retreat into no-man's land after being attacked with stones.

A number of migrants jumped into the Suchiate river to reach rafts, while others either turned back towards Guatemala or simply sat down on the bridge.

Several people were reportedly injured in the clash, including migrants, police and journalists.

Mexican authorities said those with valid passports and visas would be allowed in immediately, though this was believed to apply to only a minority of the migrants.

They warned that anyone without papers would have to apply for refugee status or turn back, and anyone who crossed illegally would be detained and deported.

What will happen to them now?

On Friday, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said he had spoken to his Guatemalan counterpart and asked permission to send his country's civil protection force to the area to help the migrants.

"I also asked for authorisation to hire ground transportation for anyone who wants to return and an air bridge for special cases of women, children, the elderly and the sick," Mr Hernandez tweeted.

The two leaders met on Saturday to discuss the situation.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the border clash was "unprecedented" and accused some of the migrants of attacking police.

Human rights groups have criticised the US and Mexican response to the caravan.

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