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An imposing caravan of migrants has been set up in Central America, heading for the United States

Honduran migrants in Guatemala, en route to the United States, January 16, 2020 (JOHAN ORDONEZ / AFP)

It was Wednesday January 15 at the border of Honduras and Guatemala: a crowd running across the border, without stopping at the customs post. In a few hours, according to the accounts of the Guatemalan immigration services, 2,247 people entered the country, without a visa, without control, through two border posts. All come from Honduras, to the southeast, and say they want to go to the United States. The flow could intensify, to constitute the most important “caravan of migrants” that the region has known. It is therefore the fifth time in 15 months that the phenomenon has occurred: the largest procession, so far, had numbered around 2,000 people in October 2018. On the images of television in Honduras and Guatemala, we see a lot of families, sometimes with small children, in strollers. All progress on foot, wearing only small backpacks and waving the white and sky blue flag of Honduras.

It starts again because the same causes produce the same effects. In this case, it is about the economic and social situation in this country which is roughly the size of two French regions and has 9 million inhabitants. Honduras is riddled with violence first: robberies and killings are common, especially in the north of the country, where gangs are ruling. And then there is endemic unemployment. Officially, 5% unemployment. But the numbers are wrong. According to the country's economists' association, only one in three people works full time. So Hondurans are fleeing violence and the lack of an economic outlook. There is no reason why it should stop. They take the path of the exodus. An endless path: more than 2,500 km on foot, heading north to the border with the United States, via Guatemala and then Mexico. It’s the distance Paris-Moscow. It also goes to show how desperate they are.

And it’s unlikely they’ll reach their destination because there are many pitfalls on the road. In recent months, Trump's United States has signed deals with Guatemala and Mexico to keep these migrants out. Some have already been arrested this Thursday, January 16, in Guatemala. But the new Guatemalan president, Alejandro Giammattei, who has just taken office, is very critical of these migration agreements. He may therefore let the caravan pass. It will be more complicated on the border with Mexico. The Mexican authorities, who held an emergency meeting on the subject, have announced their intention to return these migrants. And they have deployed 25,000 soldiers along the borders. The matter could therefore go wrong. It must be said that Mexico already has tens of thousands of refugees from Honduras stranded on its soil. All this looks very much like a dead end.

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