Guatemalan security forces repress Honduran migrant caravan heading towards the US

Thousands of Hondurans, who have set off for the US, seek to escape the deepening crisis within the country, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation caused by the Eta and Iota hurricanes in November 2020

January 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Guatemalan security forces repressed thousands of Honduran migrants with tear gas and stun grenades on January 17, in the town of Vado Hondo, in the department of Chiquimula, bordering Honduras. Photo: Prensa Libre

Guatemalan military and police forces, on January 17, repressed the caravan of thousands of Honduran migrants and prevented them from moving forward in the country and continuing their journey towards the United States.

On January 16, migrants had managed to cross the border between Honduras and Guatemala at El Florido, despite heavy presence of security officials. However, on January 17, in the town of Vado Hondo, in the department of Chiquimula, bordering Honduras, the security forces confronted the migrants with tear gas and stun grenades. The security officers charged the crowd with batons and sticks, and managed to stop the migrants from advancing beyond Vado Hondo. In the incident of violent repression, hundreds of people were injured.

Thousands of Hondurans, who left their country last week in different waves on January 13, 15 and 16 from the city of San Pedro Sula, remain stranded in Vado Hondo in northeastern Guatemala and are fighting the authorities to let them continue on their way to the US-Mexico border.

Nevertheless, the authorities have warned the migrants that they will not be allowed to pass through the country and have asked the migrants to return to Honduras. They have also arranged buses and trucks for those who wish to voluntarily return home.

The security forces maintain barriers across the Chiquimula department to prevent the migrants from advancing. More than 20 military and police checkpoints have been placed on the highway that would lead migrants from their current location to the border with Mexico.

According to the Guatemalan National Police, between 6,000 to 9,000 people have entered Guatemala since January 15, making it one of the biggest caravans since 2018 when the people began travelling in large groups to flee Central America for the US. At the same time, the Guatemalan Migration Institute reported that, between January 15 and 16, around 1,000 immigrants were arrested and deported to Honduras by immigration and security officials.

Honduran migrants, including men, women and children, have set off on this perilous 4,000-km long journey on foot to the US with the hope to apply for humanitarian asylum there. They seek to escape extreme poverty, violence, unemployment, lack of education and health within the country, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation caused by the Eta and Iota hurricanes, which struck Central American countries in November 2020.

Read more: A new migrant caravan leaves from Honduras for the US

Most of the people who have joined this migrant caravan say that they have nothing to return to. They have lost everything in the devastating floods and landslides due to hurricanes and have been forced to leave their country in the absence of a response to their conditions from the far-right government of President Juan Orlando Hernández.

The administration of the US president Donald Trump adopted a hostile policy against these caravans and imposed harsh restrictions against undocumented migration. The migrants are hoping that the situation would change after president-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

Biden promised to reverse Trump’s strict immigration policies and rebuild asylum processes. However, the possibility of allowing the arriving asylum seekers to enter the US has already been rejected by Biden’s transition team officials.