Immigration

Guatemalan forces use tear gas, batons to stop large migrant caravan headed for US

Tear gas and sticks were used to stop a group of Honduran asylum seekers attempting to push through a roadblock. Source: AAP

Asylum seekers fleeing Honduras have been subjected to tear gas from Guatemalan forces as they attempted to travel to the United States.

Hundreds of Honduran migrants huddled overnight on a highway in eastern Guatemala after domestic security forces used batons and tear gas to halt the passage of a US-bound caravan just days before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

As many as 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say, fleeing poverty and lawlessness in a region rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November.

Guatemalan soldiers and policemen form a human barricade to stop Honduran asylum seekers walking on a highway near to Chiquimula, Guatemala.
Guatemalan soldiers and policemen form a human barricade to stop Honduran asylum seekers walking on a highway near to Chiquimula, Guatemala.
AAP

"There’s no food or water, and there are thousands of children, pregnant women, babies, and they don’t want to let us pass," said a Honduran stuck at the blockade, who gave his name only as Pedro.

Guatemalan authorities say they have sent hundreds of migrants back to Honduras.

A Reuters witness said about 2,000 migrants were still camped out on the highway near the village of Vado Hondo, about 55 km from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador, after clashing with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday.

Honduran asylum seekers camp on a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala.
Honduran asylum seekers camp on a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala.
AP

"We're starving," said one Honduran mother, stuck behind the cordon with her 15-year-old son, her daughter, 9, and her 4-year-old niece.

"All we have is water and a few cookies," said the woman, who declined to give her name, but added that she and other travellers had formed a prayer circle as they camped out.

Other migrants evaded the gridlock by fleeing into the hills to continue onward to the border of Mexico, where the government has deployed police and National Guard troopers.

Honduran asylum seekers gather in front of a police roadblock at a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala.
Honduran asylum seekers gather in front of a police roadblock at a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala.
AAP
 

"We ran into the mountains because I’m traveling with my one-year-old," said Diany Deras, another Honduran.

Mexico’s border with Guatemala was quiet.

"All is calm here," said a National Guardsman in charge of a border crossing directly opposite Tecun Uman, Guatemala, where caravan leaders hope to cross into Mexico. He sought anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.

"I hope Guatemala contains them," he added.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch