Thousands of caravan migrants take shelter in southern Mexico
Thousands of Central American migrants traveling together to enter the United States have hunkered down in shelters in a southern Mexico city along its border with Guatemala, Reuters reported referring to local officials.
The migrants pose a tough challenge to the Mexican government’s pledge to stop the illegal travelers’ plans to press ahead to the US border.
More than 5,100 migrants have been registered in three shelters in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo, while another 2,000 had camped out for the night in the town’s central square, said Gerardo Hernandez, head of the local government’s emergency services.
“It’s really full. You can’t even walk, there’s just so many people,” he said referring to the plaza. “So far, they’re all peaceful, thank God.”
In a statement on Saturday night, Mexico’s federal government said “nearly 900 migrants” had arrived by unauthorized means, while 640 had been processed after being allowed to cross into the country via the international border crossing on the Suchite River that divides Guatemala from Mexico.
Earlier in the day, the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala said about 2,500 migrants had either already been repatriated to Honduras or were in transit back home, many using free bus tickets doled out by Guatemalan police.
Throngs of people continued to wait on the bridge border crossing, where on Saturday morning many pressed for limited opportunities to plead their case to immigration officials, while many others opted to cross the river illegally, either on jury-rigged rafts or by swimming.
The migrant rights group Pueblos Sin Fronteras also counted thousands of mostly Honduran migrants nearby Cuidad Hidalgo, although the figures did not exactly match.
Some 2,000 Honduran migrants were already back home after giving up on continuing to Mexico, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales said at midday press conference in Guatemala City alongside his Honduran counterpart, President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Hernandez said about 500 migrants were in transit back to Honduras, a roughly 12-hour trip by road.
“We are working to provide a peaceful and safe return trip and avoid that these movements keep happening in the future,” said Morales.
The leaders of all three countries have come under intense pressure from US President Donald Trump, who for days has warned that the caravan must be stopped. Trump has made it a political issue in the Nov. 6 mid-term US congressional election, threatened to cut off regional aid, close the US-Mexico border and deploy troops there if Mexico failed to halt the migrants.
Hernandez noted that migrants from elsewhere in the region had joined the caravan, along with others from “outside the region,” though he did not cite specific nationalities. He added that planes would be used to fly children back home.
The migrants seemed confused over their next moves while it was equally unclear how Mexican authorities would react to so many unauthorized arrivals.
“This is not a caravan anymore. This is an exodus,” said Ruben Figuerora of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, standing on the muddy bank of the Mexican side of the Suchite river, as a line of young male migrants walked past him after crossing on a raft.