Migrants at the Guatemala-Mexico border tell their stories of fleeing crime, violent gangs, drugs and corruption.
“There is no way to live there, we don´t know how to survive” says Margarita, 34.
She has left her home country of Honduras together with 15 other members of her family. “We have crime and insecurity, everything is awful” she says. She has had enough with the situation in her country and is travelling north with the latest migrant caravan in search of a new life.
Margarita is taking this long journey on foot from Honduras, hoping to make it as far as the US. She has made it to the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Many thousands of others like Margarita have joined these migrant caravans in Central America, fleeing countries plagued by instability, corruption, inequality and some of the worst violence seen outside of conflict zones.
Several cities in Central America are among the most dangerous in the world. Women, in particular, face appalling levels of violence. Each year thousands of women are murdered with total impunity.
Wendy, 26, has left the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras with her husband and 8 month old daughter Escarlett. She describes the situation in her home city as “terrible” and that they decided to leave because of crime and gang violence. “There are bad people, they kill your family” she says.
Wesley, 19, has left Honduras with her two children. “There are no jobs and no chance to provide for your family” she says. Furthermore, the violence is “getting worse and worse”. She is travelling together with a group in the caravan who all came from the same neighbourhood in the city of San Pedro Sula, which is one of the most violent cities in Honduras.
“I tell them, that age doesn´t matter, that we can work as much as kids do” says Alejandro who is 54. He has decided to leave his home in Guatemala to join the caravan so that he might be able to find work to support his family. In Guatemala, he says “if you are over 50, there is no chance for you to find a job”. He hasn’t been able to find work in the last 3 months and has seven children. He says “the only chance I have is to go to México”.
In Honduras “the situation is difficult, there is no work, and a lot of crime” says Cintia, 26, from the capital Tegucigalpa. She has three children but left them behind with her mother. “I am going to fight for them and for my mum” she says. “We can´t go on like this, so we have to look for a better life somewhere else”.
For Zulna, 30, the lack of women’s rights was the main reason she left her country, El Salvador. Waiting at the border with her son and daughter, she says “It seems like if you complain about something, they would be blind, deaf and mute. So, this, sometimes forces you to leave your country”.
Maritza, 38, decided to join the caravan with her two daughters to flee the violence and corruption of Honduras. Maritza says that the “truth is we came here to see if we can get asylum or, if we can reach USA and find help there”.
However, the reality is that getting into the US may be extremely challenging. The administration in Washington is stridently anti-immigration. Donald Trump has made persistent attempts to characterise people from Central America in the migrant caravans as criminals and terrorists and wants to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Most of the thousands of migrants who set off on earlier caravans have ended up stranded at the Mexican border city of Tijuana for the last two months. The Mexican authorities are struggling to provide for the influx, but have offered asylum and work permits to the migrants.
As they continue their long and difficult journey ahead, Trócaire is providing support through local partner organisation ‘The Migrant House’ in Guatemala. We’re reaching out to provide food, shelter, dignity kits, medical assistance and legal advice to 4,000 migrants.
For most of the migrants in the latest caravan, they will still try their best to get in to the US, to seek asylum and build a new life. At the Guatemala-Mexico border, Maritza has hope of making it to the US. She says “we believe that our dreams can still come true, that we will be able to help our families”.
Cintia also tries to remain positive, saying “if you are not determined, you´ll never know where you will get. We are going forward, somewhere else, looking for jobs, fighting for our families”.