Fleeing from Central America
According to the United Nations (UN), around 70 millions of people across the world, have been seen forced to flee their homes. Among them, there are almost 28 millions of refugees and more than a half are under 18 years old. In these recent years, the armed conflicts in Syria or Iraq have focused the attention of the international community due to, mainly, the high number of refugee people who have reached Europe. But whereas the focal point was on refugee people from Syria, in Central America also already existed situations that deserved international attention and which currently, have come to light.
Figure 1: Central America Northern Triangle. Retrieved from
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are the three countries that form de Northern Triangle of Central America. This region, located between North and South America presents a social, economic and political system very weakened that makes people unable to cover their basic needs. Moreover, the statistics show that these are the three countries with the highest murder rates in the world without being at war. The generalized violence due to the organized crime and the criminal gangs called ‘’Maras’’, have unleashed a fragile situation for thousands of families.
Figure 2: A police officer guards the Guatemalan Parliament during a protest against government corruption in Guatemala City, September 2017. Fred Ramos. El Faro.
These reasons have culminated with lots of families crossing borders in pursuit of a better life in the United States of America (USA). But the migratory route is not easy at all; they usually make the long journey with caravans, risking their lives and finally, they end up stuck in Mexico.
Figure 3: Central American migrants in a truck on its way to Tecún Umán, Guatemala, which borders the Mexican state of Chiapas, in October 2018. Fred Ramos. El Faro.
It is estimated that every year 500.000 individuals cross the border between Mexico and the USA but in the first trimester of 2019, the amount has already reached 300.000 people. Thus, it is expected that if things remain like this, at the end of the year, it would be more than 1 million people trying to cross the border.
Figure 4: Migratory routes with km and hours from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to the USA. El Salvador.
It is known that the President of the USA, Donald Trump, will not let 1 million people enter the country because to stop the immigration was one of the lines in his electoral program. In order to maintain his xenophobic speech, he is blackmailing the President of Mexico, known as AMLO, through the agreements between both countries. At the beginning of this year, both countries started the Migrant Protection Protocol plan, most known as ‘’Quédate en México’’. This program forces to some asylum seekers to wait in México meanwhile their cases are processing in the USA and these procedures can take months or even years. Moreover, the initiative has had the result of the return of 8.000 people to México.
Currently, besides reinforcing this plan, the presidents agreed in terms of immigration. The agreement came after Trump threated to impose progressive tariffs on the products the United States imports from Mexico if the country does not stop the flow of migrants crossing its territory to reach the United States. In this situation, AMLO has raised the restrictions related to people’s flow sending more police to its border with Guatemala.
Figure 5: Central American migrants cross the Suchiate River between Guatemala and Mexico, October 2018. Fred Ramos. El Faro.
So, the scenario is that the government of USA wants that Mexico becomes a ‘’safe third country’’ when lots of experts point that it is not feasible. Last year, the country reached an unprecedented number of homicides since two decades ago. The organized crime controls the migrants’ flow at some points of the border and the extreme violence is a reality. According to human rights activists, to expose the migrants in these dangerous sections of the border it would be a death sentence.
To implement the agreement, both nations need to recruit people and execute protocols to manage the returned migrants. Mexico will need money to keep its promises of offering jobs, educating and addressing the health of migrants who are returned in a moment that the economy of the country is unsteady. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that these measures show results, especially in the 3 months which the USA demanded. As we can see, to avoid a trade war, the countries are not facing the actual problems and politicians are trying to impose superficial ‘’solutions’’ for hiding the tensions between them.
Figure 6: Central American migrants in Oaxaca, México, on a trailer heading to the United States, October 2018. Fred Ramos. El Faro.
The situation in the Northern Triangle of Central America is far to improve. Every day, there are more people who risk their lives and try to survive. As many experts say, the solution will not be closing the borders and control the people in one country pretending that it is safe. There is a need to share responsibility and a reflection about the root causes in their countries of origin that make people leave.
Today, 20th of June is the World Refugee Day. An international day proclaimed by the UN in order to raise awareness about the situation of millions of people around the world. So, let’s think about what is happening in our societies. Do you think that someday we will look back and we will be satisfied with our actions? Building walls between countries is the proper way to manage the refugee crisis? What kind of world do we want to leave future generations? Are we creating tolerant and pacifist societies?
We are talking about complex answers but there is an urgent need to think about it and raise the voice for all refuge people who at the end, want the same as you: a better future.
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