In mid-October, alarming news came from Mexico. Hundreds of Mexican police went to their southern border, to which a “caravan” of refugees, consisting of thousands of migrants from Central America, began to flock to Guatemala. A new wave of migration crisis rapidly “hit” on Mexico after the US President Donald Trump promised to use troops to completely close the border with the Latin American state. In turn, Trump also threatens to reduce assistance to those countries that will allow to pass the “caravan” of refugees. What do citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala run from? And why did the wave of migration crisis from Venezuela “penetrate” to the whole of Central America?
Migrants from Central America openly declare that they are fleeing from poverty and violence and are going to the United States. It is worth remembering that Donald Trump, even during his election campaign, spoke out against illegal migration, and after taking up the presidency, he began to fulfill his promises.
In June of this year, under strong public pressure, he signed a decree, canceling his decision, as a result of which the US authorities were able to separate detainees of illegal immigrants from their own children. Then the cancellation of this decision affected at least about two and a half thousand minor children. Back in April, the American leader had already mentioned in his speeches about the possibility of sending the military to the Mexican border. Even then, Trump meant the formation and promotion of a “caravan” of migrants from Central America, which, according to the US president, it is better to stop before he gets there.
Many American political consultants say that it is not the first time that the US leader finds such a reason as a “caravan” of migrants to enlist the support of its policies in the field of migration and border control from the population. However, this October wave of a general Latin American crisis can disorganize life in the Border States: Texas and Arizona on the eve of the November elections, if the American leader resorts to the help of troops to “close” the border. On the other hand, such a measure would certainly complicate relations with Mexico, where President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador is already preparing to take office in December.
Over the years, every day thousands of people and tons of goods legally cross the border of the United States and Mexico. Mexico is one of the key US trading partners. On October 20, Donald Trump has already sent the first detachments of the National Guard troops to protect the border, however, it remains unclear what he now means by “closing the border”, and how, in turn, this can affect trade and the movement of people with visas. In addition, under international law, the US government cannot deport an asylum seeker until it has examined its application.
Under pressure from the White House, Mexico sent the Federal Police to its border, although officially they are not faced with the task of stopping the thousands of “caravans”. Mexican authorities said that people without the necessary documents will have to apply for refugee status or return to their countries.
According to the authoritative agency “Associated Press”, many migrants do not have passports, they use only national identity cards (ID cards), which allow them to travel to Central America. However, a passport is required to enter Mexico.
A number of human rights defenders from the “Amnesty International” organization believe that the Mexican government should not “indulge” in Trump’s armed methods, which treat people as a “security threat”. The representatives of this global body urge not to expel migrants back to countries where their lives may be in danger.
A statement was made on October 19 by the elected leader of Mexico, who plans to issue work visas to migrants from Central America when he takes the presidency in December. According to Obrador, the Mexican government has a simple plan: anyone who wants to work in Mexico, will receive a work visa. However, future Foreign Minister of Mexico Marcelo Ebrard said that migrants should not receive a work visa, but refugee status.
Why do citizens of Central America flee their countries? As of October 25, about 15% of the population of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras left their states because of banditry, crime, and the lack of economic prospects. It is worth noting that in these countries one of the highest levels of murder in the world. According to the UN, in 2015, the following figures were recorded: in Honduras – 63.75 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and in El Salvador – 108.64 murders. On October 15, in an interview with an opposition politician from Honduras, Hari Dixon said that this caravan was not heading for the “American dream”, but was fleeing a protracted “Honduran nightmare”.
According to Mexican media, on October 19, six Mexican law enforcement officers suffered while trying to contain a “caravan” of migrants from Honduras on the border of Guatemala and Mexico. About fifty people broke through the gate on the border bridge between the states, after which the guards began to use tear gas. The rest were forced to retreat. Later it was found that during the clashes on the Guatemalan-Honduras border, there are about nine victims. After this incident, on October 20, the Mexican authorities announced that they intend to open their borders to women and children from the “caravan” of refugees, which is organized in the direction of the southern Mexican border. Women and children who are allowed to cross the border will be registered with Mexican migration services, after which they will be taken to special accommodation centers.
Today, the “caravan” of migrants continues to move through Guatemala, mostly on foot. The fastest groups have already reached the southern border of Mexico. Most of them started their journey in Honduras last week. The refugees have almost no things, because they took what they could carry in backpacks. The entire segment of the path is about 4,500 kilometers.
On October 22, the Mexican government turned to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for help with a joint resolution with the authorities of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on the arrival of a “refugee caravan” on the border of the country. Also, representatives of the Mexican authorities have applied for asylum for migrants from Central America.
How the Mexican government will be able to withstand the onslaught of the endless “caravan” of refugees from Central America will show the very near future. However, the Mexican authorities will have to “balance” in making their decisions with their main trading partner, because Donald Trump has already made it clear that he will not stand aside. In the meantime, at once two “caravans” of migrants continue to move through Guatemala towards Mexico in order to reach the border with the United States. In total, they are a few thousand people. The Mexican government continues to emphasize that it respects the right to free movement, but demands that the refugees comply with the necessary rules of migration legislation.