Hondurans form a new US-bound caravan, drawing fire from Trump

San Pedro Sula, Honduras Updated: Jan 18, 2019, 08:22 AM(IST)

File photo of the 'migrant caravan' trying to get into the US. Photograph:( Reuters )

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'A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras,' Trump tweeted Tuesday. 'Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!'

Hundreds of Hondurans have set out on a trek to the United States, forming another caravan that US President Donald Trump cited Tuesday to justify building a wall on the border with Mexico.

"A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!"

As the procession left the town of San Pedro Sula under a steady rain Monday night, one of the migrants summed up their plight: "We are leaving because there is crime and no work," said Juan Garcia, 52.

Many said they had answered an anonymous social media posting referring to a January 15 migrant caravan leaving Honduras' second city. Most are young men, but the caravan also includes older people, including women carrying children. Some had wrapped themselves in the blue-and-white Honduran flag.

"In this country, there is nothing. Only unemployment, corruption, violence, extortion, which is why we fled the country," said Darwin Omar Reyes, 19, from the capital Tegucigalpa.

More than 500 people set out from the center of San Pedro Sula, which is 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

It was from the same transport hub that some 2,000 Hondurans left on October 13 in the first of a series of US-bound caravans. That and other migrant flows from El Salvador and Guatemala came to total some 13,000 people.

Tougher border policies

More than half turned around and went home, eventually. Hundreds -- down from much larger numbers late last year -- remain at the Mexican border with the United States, held back by tougher border policies under Trump and support among his base for his proposed border wall.

Marlin Alcantara, 31, said from among a group of people in the back of a pick-up truck that she was fleeing domestic violence and had documentation that would support her entry to the US. She was travelling with two daughters aged nine and 13.

"My particular case is delicate. We were victims of my mother's husband. The miserable man is in prison now but it's not enough. The worst thing is that she is on his side," said Alcantara. "That's why I made the decision to go," she said.

Kevin Ramos, 18, worked at a coffee plantation in western Honduras before he was made unemployed two months ago. 

"With God's help, we can get a job in the United States," he said. He said his father had urged him to join the caravan.

Many said they had lost hope under President Juan Orlando Hernandez. "We don't want that president, who is destroying our lives," said Javier Moran.

Hernandez's rise to power in 2014 elections provided a surge of hope for Hondurans, but Moran said that a year into his second term, that hope had dissipated. 

Living in shelters

According to Honduras' embassy in Mexico, around 2,500 Hondurans from earlier caravans are currently living in shelters in Mexico, and that only about 3 per cent of them are likely to achieve their goal of asylum in the United States.

The Honduran foreign ministry estimates that, in all, around 13,000 Hondurans arrived in Mexico in recent months, of which around 7,200 voluntarily returned to their country after being blocked at the Mexico-US border. A total of 11 migrants had died.

The first caravan, on October 13, sparked a Twitter-borne stream of anti-migrant invective from the US president.

Trump has refused to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments in a showdown with Democrats over funding for his border wall project, leading to the longest government shutdown in US history.

The president has made the migrant caravans one of his main targets as part of his broader anti-immigration drive in mid-term elections last November.

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