Honduras detains five Syrians trying to reach US

Honduras detains five Syrians headed to United States with stolen Greek passports, sparking fears in wake of Paris attacks

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

One of five Syrian men detained at Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on November 18, 2015

Honduran authorities detained five Syrians nationals as they were trying to reach the United States with stolen Greek passports, triggering alarm on Wednesday following the Paris attacks conducted by Syria-linked DAESH terrorists.

The Syrians were detained late on Tuesday as they flew into Toncontin airport serving the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and could not past airport security checks, Honduras’ police spokesman Anibal Baca said. They were allegedly planning to head to the border with neighbouring Guatemala.

Honduran authorities reported that discrepancies with the documents handed by Syrians showed up as they were being interviewed at the airport.

There were no signs of any connection to Friday’s attacks in Paris, Honduran police reported. The Syrians have reportedly been transferred to Interpol for further investigation.

"They had false documents, some passports that are going to be investigated. They were stolen in Greece and later the (Syrians) were detained. It's an investigation that was carried out by the DPI (police investigation unit) through specialist intelligence officers as well as Interpol. The (bodies are) coordinating with immigration so that they can be taken to La Canada, to be later handed over to prosecutors for investigations into this case," Baca said.

Honduran police said that the passports had been doctored to replace the photographs with those of the Syrians.

"We received information from (fellow) police services that these five Syrians left Greece and passed through Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and San Jose in Costa Rica before finally reaching Tegucigalpa," Baca said.

"They are normal Syrians."

The Syrians had travelled by air from Syria to Lebanon, then to Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica and on to Honduras.

Baca said from there, they would make their way to Honduras' second city of San Pedro Sula in an effort to go overland through Guatemala, then Mexico and on to the United States.

"It's believed they were going to San Pedro Sula and then on land to the United States."

Policemen escort five Syrian men after they were detained at Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on November 18, 2015 (Reuters)

The reason why Syrians headed to the US were not immediately known. Honduran police were considering the possibility that they were refugees fleeing war and conflict in Syria.

"We are not saying they are terrorists," Baca said.

"They are being investigated for using false passports. It could be they are fleeing war. That is being investigated."

A sixth Syrian was turned away on Friday and sent back on a plane to El Salvador.

The incident came after the United States Republican lawmakers defied US President Barack Obama on Wednesday and set out plans to tighten screening of Syrian refugees a week after Paris attacks.

Obama supported a plan announced by the White House in September that would allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US in a year. However, his plan encountered stiff resistance from Republicans, who worried that refugees might have relation to DAESH terrorist group.

On Monday, Honduras declared that it had reinforced security in its ports and airports following last week’s French attacks.

A spokesman for the country's Inter-institutional Security Force, Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco said that unauthorised refugees or asylum seekers have been using Honduras through their way to the US.

In this year, 12,600 foreigners were intercepted as they were illegally entering Honduras, almost all of them trying to reach the US, Nolasco said. Those detained by authorities include citizens of Somalia, Iran, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Togo, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, as well as of other Latin American countries.

TRTWorld and agencies