Central America planning for wave of migrant caravans

·2-min read
Honduran migrants get off a police truck in El Florido, Guatemala as they voluntarily return to their home country in January 2021

Central American countries are preparing for a wave of migrant caravans containing people from as far away as Africa and Asia to cross their territories, a Guatemala official said Friday.

"We've obtained information about the probability that these migratory flows could arrive in Guatemala" as they travel onward to the United States, said the country's migration director Guillermo Diaz.

"That's why migratory authorities in the region are already preparing for them."

US President Joe Biden's administration announced a week ago reforms to dismantle a program his predecessor Donald Trump put in place to force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases were being resolved.

Biden's immigration policies have stirred hope in those aiming to reach the US that they will not be turned away.

Diaz said the caravan issue will be discussed on Monday with a regional migration commission.

He said the migrants, who also include many Cubans and Haitians, have arrived in Central America after crossing the dangerous Darian Gap jungle that lies on the border between Colombia and Panama.

The migrants are expected to form large caravans of potentially thousands of people with the aim of making their way to Mexico and then onward to the United States.

Similar large caravans began forming in October 2018 and sparked the ire of Trump who was elected on a promise to build a wall along the country's southern border with Mexico to keep out undocumented migrants, whom he described as "rapists" and claimed were bringing drugs and crime.

In mid-January, Guatemalan police and soldiers forcibly dismantled a caravan of thousands of Hondurans, including hundreds of children, that had crossed the border into Guatemala without official papers or proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Security forces were acting on a decree from President Alejandro Giammattei who ordered the caravan stopped over fears it could spread the coronavirus.

Some 7,000 people managed to enter the country nonetheless, most of whom were repatriated to Honduras.

One week later, the United States, Mexico and Guatemala agreed to bar migrant caravans from passing through their territories due to the Covid pandemic.

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