A wild, vine-covered sign hanging from the gate in front of Nicaragua’s Immigration and Customs Office reads, “Introduce yourself to Immigration.” But instead of going through the gate, a steady stream of migrants turn left, taking a shortcut to Honduras.
Kidnapping, another risk facing Honduran migrants on their way to the US
There, a fleet of motorcycle taxis weaves in and out across an open field, ferrying newcomers to the center of Trojes, where the once-quiet streets are now bustling with so many immigrants that the view shifts to the border with Mexico. I have the equivalent of normal view. towns.
Central America has long been a source of migrants. But since 2021, the smuggling network has gradually ramped up its operations through the once nearly impassable jungle of the Darien Gap along Panama’s southern border with Colombia, carving out a path north, While still treacherous, that has changed the risk calculus for many people. Escape from poverty, oppression and violence.
This, along with the elimination of visa requirements for Cubans to enter Nicaragua in 2021, will allow migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti and other distant places to travel to the United States. Has caused record no. And as they travel through Central America, the political and economic dynamics of places of transit change.
In few places this phenomenon is more evident than in Trojas, a small farming community in Honduras, where Cubans arriving by bus direct from Managua airport mingle with migrants from around the world who have arrived from the Darien Gap.
“Almost Everyone Benefits”
In October, immigration officials recorded more than 30,000 irregular entries in Honduras, surpassing the previous annual record in 2019. As of 16 November, more than 154,000 had been registered, and most of those migrants passed through Trojes.
However, those numbers only tell part of the story. In fiscal year 2022, the US Border Patrol will record nearly half a million “encounters”. [como denomina EEUU a las personas que cruzan la frontera sin papeles y son puestas bajo custodia mientras se resuelve su situación migratoria] Mexico borders with migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti, most of whom traveled from part of Central America.
For Trojes, it has represented an economic boom. Motorcycle taxi drivers’ wallets are full of greenbacks, houses throughout the community have posters announcing rooms and bathrooms for rent or currency exchange, and vendors of all stripes see their businesses prosper.
“Almost everyone benefits, it’s a blessing,” says 45-year-old Osman Salinas, a street vendor since the age of 13, who comments with a wide smile on his sun-burnt cheeks that this is the biggest change in his life. Has had the best year ever.
Despite having so much money in hand, there is no dearth of opportunists who have tried to take advantage. “In every town or place there are people who want to double the price of migrants in need, because they are migrants we will never see again and they have no way of denouncing the injustice done to them, says Ana Ramirez, a program coordinator. Migrant Shelter. in Esquipulas, Guatemala.
Near the central park of Trojes there is a line of several buses that charge migrants nine dollars per person – almost triple the cost of locals – to take them to their next stop in nearby Danli. Once there, the migrants were split into different buses: to go to the capital, Tegucigalpa, there was a separate line for foreigners, the advertised price of which was twice the price charged in the line for Hondurans. However, those with sufficient resources opt for a bus that takes them to the Guatemalan border, a service that did not exist a few months ago but now runs nine buses daily with 50 or more passengers.
To facilitate transit through Honduras, the government in August introduced an amnesty that exempts migrants from paying about $230 per person for a transit pass and allows them to travel throughout the country for five days without fear of being deported. allows to do.
This is in stark contrast to the policy adopted by Guatemala, which clamped down on the peak of this decline in migrant numbers, setting up checkpoints and deporting nearly 10,000 people – mostly Venezuelans and Cubans – to Honduras in just two months. came back However, the tightening of measures seems to have affected migrants who have fewer resources.
“It’s a business they’ve built to detain migrants, but the migrants who pay the police are free,” says Ramirez. Guardian He has spoken with several migrants who managed to reach the capital, Guatemala City, in the heart of the country. All of them say they were forced to pay the police several times to visit Guatemala, as most of them came from neighboring countries whose citizens could enter without a visa. However, today there are a large number of migrants who need help. For example, a Haitian migrant in Trojes says he has already hired a smuggler to take him through Guatemala, a trip that can be made for $250 a day.
At the Agua Caliente border between Honduras and Guatemala, security forces dressed in riot gear stand ready to head north. Though, not far away, you can see people walkie-talkie Guiding groups of migrants into the forest, possibly introducing them through checkpoints. expatriates interviewed Guardian They say they paid up to $50 per person for the same service at borders across Central America.
Although in most cases migrants try to get through countries as quickly as possible, many of those they spoke with Guardian He says he looked for temporary work in Costa Rica to save money.
Adding to the tension is the situation of large numbers of Venezuelan migrants, whose travel was halted on October 12 following the announcement that Venezuelans arriving at the US border would be turned back to Mexico under Title 42, due to the pandemic. A public health law enacted during the U.S. that allows the U.S. Border Patrol to immediately remove immigrants from certain countries without the possibility of applying for asylum.
This situation has made migration visible in the region, but it has also drastically reduced the number of new arrivals, and the flow of Venezuelans passing through the Darien Gap has almost completely stopped in November, with the total number almost equal to the previous one. In comparison, there has been a decrease of 72%. month.
With Title 42 ending on December 21, the camping Venezuelans may be leaving soon. But many more may follow. This is likely to be used as a lure by smugglers, even for people from unaffected countries, making it a common form of misinformation whenever there is a change in US immigration policy.
If migration flows through Central America increase further in 2023, tensions with local authorities could follow. Yet many who benefit from the new economy that has sprung up along the way are betting on migrants.
In Trojes, a man cements the walls of some rooms that, when finished, will fit no more than a bunk bed. “They’re for expatriates,” he says.
Translation by Emma Reverser.