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Why are thousands of migrants trooping to the US?

By Hallam Bullock

The migrant caravan headed towards the US border.

What is the migrant caravan?

More than 7000 migrants have converged on the US-Mexico border, having travelled more than 2,500 miles to escape persecution, poverty, and violence in their home countries.

Many claim their goal is to settle in the US permanently, undeterred by threats of arrests, prosecution, and lethal force. In their quest for salvation, they have risked their lives and suffered calamitous loss.

Where does the caravan originate?

Many of the migrants come from Honduras, a country in central America which is inundated with gang violence, drowned in drug wars, and plagued by political corruption. The wider region is shrouded in crime, possessing the infamous reputation for having one of the highest murder rates in the world. It is therefore no surprise that families want to escape the ubiquitous violence in search of a brighter future. Whilst the caravan is largely considered to have originated in Honduras, it has attracted masses of migrants escaping from similar violence in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Why a caravan?

By forming a caravan, the migrants have succeeded in drawing international attention to their struggle. Furthermore, it works as a form of protection, as many migrants are targets of kidnapping, extortion, and human trafficking by criminal gangs.

How has the US received the migrant caravan?

Having endured a treacherous 2,500 miles, the migrants were greeted at the US border with teargas and riot police. Donald Trump remains steadfast in his scepticism over the sincerity of their plight. Fears of letting in scores of ill-willing criminals has led Trump to previously approve the use of “lethal force” to impede attempts to cross the border. This does not, however, mean that their reception has been entirely unsympathetic – as many volunteers have demonstrated benevolent acts of kindness by donating to the migrants.

What is next?

Many of the migrants are considering remaining in Mexico, as the former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to welcome any who wish to stay with gainful employment.

Large numbers have given up hope – returning to their home countries despondent and dispirited.

In the US there is a legal obligation to hear claims of asylum from migrants who are fleeing violence. Under international law, these circumstances render those involved as refugees. For those who remain at the border, the bridge from the violence of their homeland to their sanguine dreams of safety remains cleaved in two – by a wall of US border agents. They must remain in temporary shelters until each of their individual cases are considered by US courts.

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