At a seaside hotel converted into a reception center, more than 200 Honduran migrants got off six buses, tired of traveling overnight across Guatemalan territory after being deported from Mexico.
Their journey ended on Mexican soil without reaching the border with the United States and on Friday morning they were back in Honduras doing the paperwork to return to the places where they had started.
The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported last month having more than 41,000 encounters with Hondurans on the southern border, 12,000 more than in March 2019.
The reasons Hondurans continue to flee their country are well documented: widespread violence, entrenched corruption, lack of jobs, and extensive destruction following the powerful hurricanes that hit the region in November last year.
Here, in one of the Honduran government reception centers for deportees, their documents were inspected, they were given a medical check and, with the assistance of the Red Cross, they were evaluated to determine if they could safely return to their communities.
Gilles Carbonnier, vice president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited the center on Friday during a week-long tour of El Salvador and Honduras. Among other actions, the Red Cross works to support people displaced by violence.
On Saturday, Carbonnier recounted meeting with a Honduran shoemaker who had a workshop in a market in Tegucigalpa. One of the notorious street gangs in the region was extorting him and when he could no longer pay them they gave him a severe beating.
The shoemaker had no choice but to close his workshop and emigrate to the United States. He was deported more than a year ago, was examined in another of the reception centers in Honduras and finally handed over to the Red Cross. The humanitarian agency helped him relocate and provided him with some money.
“With a financial aid that we gave him, he bought the material to restart his shoemaker activities and right now he has two workshops, six employees, and well, that man was able to start his life over again,” said Carbonnier.
Hondurans and other people around the world are forced to emigrate due to a “lack of opportunity and lack of hope,” he noted. “Lack of opportunity, lack of hope then results in saying ‘there is no room for me in this country and I’m leaving.”
For Eugenio Sosa, a sociologist at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, the various factors that force Hondurans to leave their country have contributed to widespread hopelessness.
“People not only leave because it is very bad, people leave because it is very bad and because they have the certainty that this is going to continue badly and that the country has rotted forever,” he stressed.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been assigned to address the root causes of emigration in the region, issued a similar point of view this week.
Harris said Wednesday that the United States wants to use its resources – an assistance of 4,000 million dollars mentioned by the Biden administration – to give the inhabitants of the countries of the Northern Triangle, made up of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, some hope that if they remain in their countries, aid is on the way and they can have some hope that the opportunities and needs they have will be covered in some way.
Sosa noted that even the slightest hints that things are starting to change would make a difference, even if the monumental challenges in the fields of health, education, employment and corruption do not change overnight.
“If people begin to see small changes, they enter into the logic of valuing staying more than leaving,” said Sosa.
Honduran migrants set out in caravans from San Pedro Sula in December, January and March. All attempts to travel safely in large groups disappeared when they entered Guatemala. However, the caravans of recent years represent only a fraction of the almost unnoticed daily migration of families or individuals undertaking the journey on their own or with the help of smugglers.
The government of then President Donald Trump pressured Mexico and Central America to adopt stronger measures to stop migrants. The administration of President Joe Biden has sent a more compassionate message that in many cases has been misinterpreted as an invitation or at least as a sign of a friendlier reception. However, the reality continues to be that the United States is rapidly expelling most of those who make it to its southern border.
When White House officials said this week that they had reached agreements with the governments of the Northern Triangle countries to deploy soldiers to help combat human trafficking across their borders, various activist groups criticized the Biden administration for making it difficult to process for those seeking) international protection.
Carbonnier noted that countries have the right to control their borders, but at the same time they must treat migrants humanely and with dignity.
“What we see through the Sahara desert, what we see through the Mediterranean Sea, what we also see in part of Asia, is that while stricter measures are taken that restrict the possibilities of migration by way, let’s say, more officers, the migration continues,” said Carbonnier. “Migrants themselves take many more risks because they have to find alternative routes.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.