Two caravans of people have left San Pedro Sula in Honduras towards Mexico and the US so far this year. Many people in the latest caravan, which departed on 31 January, are reported to have already participated in the first caravan earlier this year and been deported.
“I was deported but I decided to run again. I will try to reach the US as many times as necessary because my country is not safe for me,” said Oscar* who has tried to flee from his home country Honduras six times since 2018 due to death threats.
“Central Americans are left with an impossible choice; flee again under dangerous circumstances and risk kidnapping, abuse or death at the hands of organised crime groups or stay in their home countries and face life-threatening violence and extreme poverty,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Country Director Dominika Arseniuk.
In order to avoid stricter border security measures recently put in place by Guatemala and Mexico under pressure from the US, desperate people are now travelling in smaller, dispersed groups by foot, trucks and buses.
“With situations similar to those in war zones in their home countries, pregnant women, minors and elderly choose to set out on the dangerous journey towards Mexico and the US time and again. Along the route they need food, safe shelter and medical assistance, but most of all they need protection,” Arseniuk said.
States are obliged to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement prescribed by international refugee law.
“No one in need of international protection should be deported back to Honduras or El Salvador where their lives may be under direct threat. Authorities in the US and Mexico must guarantee people who are fleeing for their safety the right to state their case and seek asylum,” she added.
*Name changed for security reasons.
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- The first caravan of 2020 set out from San Pedro Sula, Honduras on 15 January, and quickly grew to more than 4,000 people. In order to avoid increasing border security, people travelled in smaller, dispersed groups (up to 20 or 30 people), by foot, trucks and buses.
- On the 31 January, another caravan left San Pedro Sula. Approximately 100 people convened in the bus station and set out in small groups, mostly on foot or hitchhiking, crossing the border at Agua Caliente.
- Reports from community-based organisations highlight that many people in this latest caravan had already participated in the first caravan earlier this year and had been deported.
- According to estimations by partner organisations in Guatemala, families, unaccompanied minors, LGBTI people and pregnant women make up at least a third of the members of the caravans.
- The people fleeing are in urgent need off food, shelter, medical assistance, information and other basic humanitarian aid.
- NRC is present through local humanitarian partners in Guatemala City and Tecun Uman providing food, water and hygiene kits, among other assistance. NRC is also present in the Centre for Returnees in Honduras to support people fleeing in the caravans with information on the shelters in route and asylum procedures in Guatemala and Mexico. In El Salvador, the NRC team has distributed hydration kits on the border with Guatemala and has identified cases of families with protection risks who could not join the caravan and will be supported.