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article imageHondurans defy Trump to head north for US border

By Noe LEIVA (AFP)     Apr 10, 2019 in World

A new migrant caravan of around a thousand Hondurans hit out for the United States border on Wednesday in defiance of threats from US President Donald Trump.

According to the Red Cross "more than 800, almost a thousand," migrants converged late Tuesday on the town of San Pedro Sula before heading north through Guatemala towards Mexico and the US border.

The caravan, which followed a call on social media, took the authorities by surprise after similar appeals since February failed to muster numbers.

Such groups are a target of Trump, who has vowed to tighten migration policy and build a wall to stop them from entering the United States through Mexico.

Among the latest departures were many families with children.

Alexis Perez, 27, said: "We are done with this government. There is no work."

Around half of them crammed aboard a fleet of minibuses, some that would take them to Tecun Uman on the Guatamala-Mexico border for a $51 fee.

Others opted for the shorter and cheaper trip to Agua Caliente, a town on the Honduran border with Guatemala.

Around 300 migrants were left to hike along the road to Guatemala, or catch lifts from passing cars.

- Taken by surprise -

The first caravan of 2 000 migrants set off from Honduras in October 2018  with three other convoys ...
The first caravan of 2,000 migrants set off from Honduras in October 2018, with three other convoys following in a bid to reach the US in search of work or fleeing drug-traffickers

Since October 13, when the first caravan of 2,000 set off, three other similar convoys of migrants have left Honduras for the US in search of work or fleeing drug-traffickers.

Several thousand Central Americans have trekked across Mexico by caravan since last year, fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries.

They travel en masse in hopes of finding safety in numbers against Mexican gangs that regularly extort, kidnap and kill migrants, sometimes in collusion with local authorities.

Honduran migrants have been undeterred by the threats, according to experts. Around 300 cross into Guatemala every day, a country they must traverse to reach Mexico, with the United States beyond as the ultimate goal.

"Every night, up to six buses-full of migrants are heading to the border," said Franklin Paz, a transport company employee in San Pedro Sula, which has become a hub for the migrants -- both those who are leaving and those being sent back.

While many Hondurans strike out from here, others find themselves back where they started, after being expelled from the United States.

Liza Medrano, head of the General Directorate for the Protection of Honduran Migrants, said two flights carrying evicted Hondurans and up to 16 buses arrive daily from Mexico -- bringing a total of around 750 home to Honduras.

Hundreds of returned migrants arrive at San Pedro Sula airport with their hands and feet chained.

"For this year alone, up to March 3, 19,605 Hondurans, have been sent home, said Medrano.

"They kicked me out today," said Roger Quintanilla. "They caught me in Houston, Texas.

He said he fled Honduras to avoid being forced to enlist in one of the country's notorious gangs.

"Here, we can't live," the 18-year-old said.

Santiago Reyes said he felt betrayed by reports that it was easier to reach the United States if he was with a child.

"I was deceived, everyone said that the transition to the United States was easy, but now, with the law, that's changed.

"It's a lie, They are not granting asylum with children," said Reyes, alongside his seven-year old boy.

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