Oxfam supports migrant caravan stranded in Guatemala with humanitarian aid
October 24, 2018
At least 2,500 migrants, including families with babies and elderly adults, are stranded at the Guatemala-Mexico border. They are exhausted, suffering precarious conditions, and exposed to many dangers. Oxfam and its partner organizations are currently deployed in the area.
“The migrants are sleeping outdoors, some with only thin plastic sheets or bedsheets to protect themselves from the rain. Others don’t even have that much. They are sleeping on the pavement and in a park. Children, adolescents, women and elderly adults have been walking for over a week in the blazing sun. They are exhausted, desperate, hungry and terrified,” said Ivan Aguilar, Humanitarian Coordinator for Oxfam in Guatemala.
The largest group of migrants is currently in Tecún Umán, a town on the extreme western end of Guatemala’s border with Mexico. The Dr. Rodolfo Robles International Bridge, which spans the Suchiate River, separates Tecún Umán from Ciudad Hidalgo, in Mexico. According to information given to Oxfam by organizations working in the Northern Triangle of Central America, other caravans of migrants are on their way from Honduras and El Salvador, which will worsen the situation.
In response to this humanitarian crisis, Oxfam with its local partners is distributing 3,500 personal hygiene kits and will install 60 latrines, showers and provide access to drinking water in coordination with the Municipality of Tecún Umán. Oxfam will also distribute industrial kitchens and water filters to the shelters that are receiving migrants.
In Mexico, Oxfam will allocate resources from its Humanitarian Emergency Fund to support migrant rights organizations and shelter networks, which have strong expertise and are in the best position to directly provide care and protection to the migrants.
Between the 19th and 20th of October, a group of migrants was able to enter Mexico after they pushed through a metal border fence. This unleashed a confrontation between the Mexican police and members of the caravan. A yet to be determined number of migrants and various Mexican police officers were injured. Others jumped into the Suchiate River or onto precarious rafts made of tires to get across the border.
The caravan left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13 with the intention of walking to the United States. The migrants are fleeing generalized violence, poverty and food insecurity, a problem that has grown more dire in the face of climate change. Various members of the caravan have told Oxfam personnel of the difficult circumstances that have forced them to migrate. Karen, who has walked for more than 700 kilometers from Honduras with her seven-year-old daughter, left two children behind in a shelter. “Help us, we are begging you from the bottom of our hearts. We cannot return to Honduras because we face death threats there.”
Oxfam calls on the Mexican authorities to heed the recommendations of organizations defending migrants’ rights to grant prima facie recognition to the caravan, in accordance with Mexican and international laws, by which refugee status is recognized without requiring persons arriving in mass influx to present their case individually.
Oxfam has reiterated its call to the governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to protect the people who are participating in this caravan and all migrants in general; to respect the principles of non-refoulement; to provide protection mechanisms to those who cannot return to their country of origin because of threats to their lives and safety; and to guarantee that children are not separated from their families.
Due to the danger that human trafficking rings pose to people in this area, we call upon the authorities in Guatemala and Mexico to be vigilant and to take measures to thwart the operation of these mafias which could take advantage of the thousands of people who are traveling in precarious conditions in this caravan.