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Chaos at Guatemala-Mexico border as caravan tries to advance


by Jeff Abbott

Ayutla, Guatemala - Chaos ensued on the Guatemala-Mexican border on Monday after thousands of migrants and asylum seekers attempted to cross the Suchiate River, which divides the countries, after not being permitted to pass as a group into Mexico.

Some migrants threw rocks and other items at Mexican National Guard troops, who blocked the group with tear gas and rocks.

While there are few reports of injuries, Al Jazeera observed at least two migrants injured in clashes with the National Guard.

"This was a disaster," said Darlin Oliva, a 33-year-old Honduran who carried his young daughter in his arms.

"I was afraid [for my daughter]," Oliva told Al Jazeera. "They fired tear gas and threw rocks. They would not let us cross to the other side."

Oliva's wife, Rosalie, 28-years-old, cried from the panic and stress of the confrontation.

Both decided to join the caravan in hopes of reaching the United States due to the deteriorating situation in Honduras, which has seen an increase in poverty and violence over the last decade.

"There is no work for anyone over 30," Oliva said. "Our hope is to reach the United States."

The situation remained tense late on Monday as more National Guard troops arrived at the banks of the river along. At least one group managed to pass the troops and begin walking into Mexico.

Fears of deportation

The caravan set out from San Pedro Sula, Honduras beginning on January 15, and quickly grew to more than 4,000 people. It split as it entered Guatemala, with groups taking one of two routes to the Mexican border with Guatemala.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border.

The following day, more than 1,000 migrants crossed into Mexico in groups of 20. According to the Mexican National Institute of Migration, each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programmes. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

As the migrants waited, a loudspeaker at the border warned against applying for asylum in the US, stating that the applicant could be returned. It also announced that the Mexican government would "offer employment opportunities in your country of origin".

The possibility of work is being met by scepticism by migrants due to the threat of being returned to Honduras.

"I don't believe that. It is a lie," Oliva said. "They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan."

On Monday, thousands more gathered at the border at 4am to request that Mexico permit the group passage to the US border. Representatives from the caravan presented Mexican officials with a letter requesting passage, but after several hours, Mexico responded that they would permit the migrants to pass in small groups in order to register everyone.

Due to fears that the small groups would be deported more quickly, many in the caravan decided to cross into Mexico via the river.

"We all wanted to pass all together," said Miriam Luna, a 32-year-old from Santa Rosa Copan, Honduras.

"We did not want them to separate us and deport us back to Honduras," she told Al Jazeera. "They have done this with many Hondurans."


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