The situation in Central America is becoming more and more complicated

  • Abdulaziz Ahmet YASAR
  • 2 Nov 2018

The word 'migrant caravan' is used to describe a group of thousand of Central American migrants on their way to the United States. The term plays down their need.

( AP )

It is the twenty-second day of the migrant caravan, and it is scheduled to reach the US border in one month.

Starting with 160 people from a bus station in Honduras, the caravan amassed to several thousand people after the news went viral online.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and according to the UN, it beats out its neighbours in only measure: its murder rate.

It is the second highest in the world, and its neighbour, El Salvador, ranks first on the list. Hundreds of Salvadorans are a part of the caravan too.

This has been the case for a long time, which is why the "migra", as the mass emigration is known, is not a new phenomenon. 

About 7,000 people are estimated to be a part of it. They have crossed Central America and broken through the border between Guatemala and Mexico.

What is new is that awareness surrounding the plight of these migrants is now spreading. 

La caravana set off in Honduras after an appeal on 13 October, organised by a human rights lawyer.

Remittances from relatives in the diaspora are the main source of income for most of the families travelling on the caravan. 

People belonging to a caravan of migrants from El Salvador en route to the United States, rest at the Central Park in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, November 1, 2018.(Reuters)

Food for political gain

Attention on the migrant caravan's spread globally when US President Donald Trump's delivered a harsh response to it characterising it as,

"We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and members into the U.S."

The stance taken by the US president was delivered within the context of the US midterm elections on November 6.

Some believe the Republican Party stands to lose its majority in the House of Representatives which will obviously complicate things for President Trump. 

Trump's rhetoric to abolish birthright citizenship by an executive order illustrates his will to consolidate the Republican electorate within an anti-immigrant discourse.

Furthermore, the president announced a "substantial" reduction in financial aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

The governments and political leaders of three countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) had not "done enough" to stop the migrants heading towards the US border, the president said.

Moreover, overall 15,000 troops could be sent to the Mexico-US border to stop the caravan from entering US soil.

So far only around 100 migrants turned back after Trump's tough talk, and 1,700 applied for work permission in Mexico. 

The majority continues to walk.

Hondurans fleeing poverty and violence wait for donated food, outside the local church after a long walk part of their journey in a caravan toward the United States in Ocotepeque Honduras October 14, 2018.(AP)

Why are people marching?

Migrants are fleeing from a mixture of violence, poverty and hopelessness when it comes to change in their own country.

Hondurans accuse government officials in their country of being hand-in-glove with organised crime. 

The United Nations estimates that around 500,000 people cross the border each year from south of Mexico, heading mostly to the US.

The three main countries the migrants come from, are on a major drug smuggling route between South America, the United States and Canada. The scale of violence these South Americans face is therefore no surprise.

That so many will walk thousands of miles with plastic shoes or flip-flops and camp on roadsides is a testament to their desperation.

However, even though many hope for a better life in the north, the migration has become harder. Murder gangs, called maras, recognisable by the extreme tattoos of their members, use brutal force to terrorise entire regions. 

These gangs are also on the migration route where they rob, rape, kidnap and sell people to brothels. 

Hunger, corrupt border guards, the danger of dying of thirst in the desert,  and in the end possible deportation are the risks every migrant faces when making the arduous journey.

Rural areas are particularly affected by poverty and lack of opportunities. Their cities occupied by violence.

This is especially the case in San Pedro Sula in Honduras, in the Sula Valley, a tropical region not far from the Caribbean coast where the caravan started. 

Even children are forcibly recruited by the maras. As soon as mothers become aware of the danger, they take their children and leave if they can.

Honduras and Nicaragua are among the 30 poorest countries in the world, El Salvador follows them at number 42.

As long as violence and poverty remain persistent in these countries more caravans are yet to come.