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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019
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Migrant caravan embarks on 'route of death' through Mexico towards US border

US president Donald Trump has ordered US troops to the Mexican border in response to the caravans.

Mexico Central America Migrant Caravan Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the US border, in the trunk of a taxi, in Acayucan, Veracruz state, Mexico Source: Marco Ugarte via PA Images

THOUSANDS OF WARY Central American migrants have resumed their push toward the US, a day after arguments over the path ahead saw some travellers splinter away from the main caravan, which is entering a treacherous part of its journey through Mexico.

The majority of the roughly 4,000 migrants are now headed along what some called the “route of death” toward the town of Cordoba, Veracruz, which is about 200 kilometres up the road. The daily trek will be one of the longest yet, as the exhausted group of travellers tries to make progress any way it can to the US border still hundreds of kilometres away.

The arduous trip has already taken its toll.

A day prior, the group was beset by divisions as migrants argued with caravan organisers and criticised Mexican officials before setting out on their own for Puebla and Mexico City.

Some were disappointed after caravan organisers unsuccessfully pleaded for buses after three weeks on the road. Others were angry for being directed northward through the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, calling it the “route of death”.

A trek via the sugar fields and fruit groves of Veracruz takes them through a state where hundreds of migrants have disappeared in recent years, falling prey to kidnappers looking for ransom payments.

Authorities in Veracruz said in September they had discovered remains from at least 174 people buried in clandestine graves, raising questions about whether the bodies belonged to migrants.

Fleeing poverty and violence 

But even with the group somewhat more scattered, the majority of migrants trekking through Veracruz today were convinced that travelling as a large mass was their best hope for leaving their old lives behind and reaching the US. The vast majority of migrants are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence, and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Central America Migrant Caravan Central American migrants get a ride on a truck, in Isla, Veracruz state, Mexico Source: Marco Ugarte via PA Images

“We think that it is better to continue together with the caravan. We are going to stay with it and respect the organisers,” said Luis Euseda, a 32-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras who is travelling with his wife Jessica Fugon.

“Others went ahead, maybe they have no goal, but we do have a goal and it is to arrive.”

Mynor Chavez, a 19-year-old from Copan, Honduras, was determined to continue.

“I have no hope. I graduated as a computer technician and not even with a degree have I been able to find work,” he said of life in his home country.

In his desperation to flee, Chavez was one of the many people who crossed a river from Guatemala into Mexico, defying authorities deployed to patrol that country’s southern frontier.

It remained to be seen if the main group will now continue directly north through Veracruz to the closest US border, or veer slightly westward and make a stop in the country’s capital.

The capital could serve as a better launching pad for reaching a broader array of destinations along the US border. They could also receive additional support, although Mexican officials have appeared conflicted over whether to help or hinder their journeys.

Mexico Central America Migrant Caravan Source: Marco Ugarte via PA Images

Unprecedented situation

Mexico now faces the unprecedented situation of having three caravans stretched over 500 kilometres of highway in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz, with a total of more than 6,000 migrants.

On Friday, a caravan from El Salvador waded over the Suchiate River into Mexico, bringing 1,000 to 1,500 people who want to reach the US border.

That caravan initially tried to cross the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, but Mexican authorities told them they would have to show passports and visas and enter in groups of 50 for processing.

Another caravan, also of about 1,000 to 1,500 people, entered Mexico earlier this week and is now in Chiapas. That group includes Hondurans, Salvadorans and some Guatemalans.

Central America Migrant Caravan A boy gives food to central American migrants as they travel on a truck, in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca state, Mexico Source: AP/PA Images

The first, largest group of mainly Honduran migrants entered Mexico on 19 October.

Immigration agents and police have at times detained migrants in the smaller caravans. But several mayors have rolled out the welcome mat for migrants who reached their towns – arranging for food and campsites.

Mexico’s Interior Department says nearly 3,000 of the migrants in the first caravan have applied for refuge in Mexico and hundreds more have returned home.

With or without the government’s help, uncertainty awaits.

US president Donald Trump has ordered US troops to the Mexican border in response to the caravans. More than 7,000 active duty troops have been told to deploy to Texas, Arizona and California ahead of the midterm elections.

He plans to sign an order next week that could lead to the large-scale detention of migrants crossing the southern border and bar anyone caught crossing illegally from claiming asylum.

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Associated Press

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