Friday 9 December 2022

Guatemala uses tear gas and sticks to stop migrant caravan

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Q24N – With a new administration in sight and the possible relaxation of immigration policies, thousands of migrants from Central America have decided to once again make their run at the United States border.

Entering eastern Guatemala on foot, on their journey from Honduras, they were stopped this Sunday by the police, who fired tear gas at them, and by the military who beat up those who insisted on advancing by force.

The security forces surrounded the migrants on a highway in the town of Vado Hondo, in the department of Chiquimula, on the border with Honduras. According to police, at least 6,000 of the 9,000 people were estimated to have entered Guatemala.

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The deafening detonations of gas shots and smoke sent thousands back on the highway, while others sought refuge in mountains. In their flight, some dropped their belongings. Those who insisted on moving forward were beaten.

A health official in the region reported several injuries sustained by the migrants.

The scene on Sunday was unlike that of Friday when police were unarmed and did not stop the caravan from entering the El Florido border crossing,.

They will not pass

“We will not let them pass,” a police officer told AFP.

Hondurans say they seek to escape poverty, violence, unemployment, lack of education and health in their home country, which was aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic and the hit of two hurricanes., Eta and Iota, in November

The caravan is also encouraged by the hope of a possible relaxation of immigration policies in the United States, when the president-elect, Joe Biden, takes office on January 20.

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But Washington has already ruled out the possibility. “Do not waste your time and money and do not risk your safety and health. It is a deadly trip,” said Acting Commissioner of the Office of Customs and Border Protection of the United States (CBP), Mark A. Morgan.

Trump himself extended the “national emergency” on the border with Mexico on Friday, first imposed in February 2019 to unlock funds and build his much-announced wall.

“They will not be able to pass,” warned Guatemalan Immigration Director-General Guillermo Díaz on Saturday, lamenting that children and the elderly are exposed and urged migrants to turn back voluntarily.

According to the latest immigration report, about a thousand people had already been returned turned back to the border, including 163 children.

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The government of Guatemala reproached Honduras for the “transgression” of its national sovereignty, and asked it to “contain the massive departure of its inhabitants.”

In October, Guatemala returned a caravan with 4,000 people on the grounds of the risk of COVID-19 infections and recalling that the country promotes legal migration.

On this occasion, most of them left at dawn on Friday from the San Pedro Sula bus station, the usual departure point for migrant caravans. Most of them go on foot and some ask for a “ride”.

If they manage to travel the 450 km through Guatemala, the bulk of the caravan will then try to enter Mexico through the border crossing of Tecún Umán (southwest), which has already shielded its border.

More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have left Honduras since October 2018 for the United States, but most have failed.

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