The migrant caravan from Central America may have reached a few hundred kilometers towards United States by the time this write-up is posted. What has driven this huge population from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua to uproot their lives, put everything at risk and move towards a new country? Poverty, drug trafficking and organized crimes have riddled these economies for decades and with no hope left in their homelands, these ordinary people have embarked on a journey with an uncertain end. While President Trump has not yet announced anything for these incoming asylum seekers, there is also not much hope for them because the asylum rule is not applicable for domestic abuse and gang violence. There is only a legal obligation to hear those out who claim their existence was threatened at their own countries.
The route to the US through Mexico is a perilous one and there is fear of getting kidnapped or even murdered at many points. The human traffickers also pose constant threat especially for the women and children. Yet the caravan is increasing in number and the people becoming more determined to reach the US-Mexico border. With support from the Mexican government, NGOs and the locals, the migrants are being helped for now but for how long they can survive like this remains unknown. There are sick individuals who need medical attention yet they are moving on. The caravan has no leader and so far has been reliant on resources that they can find on the way. According to UNHCR, the number of migrants currently stands at 7,200.
History holds many events where people have willingly left their own countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families but an organized migrant caravan such as this one may be one of its kinds in the last few years. What comes off as concerning is that there are families and young children whose entire future depends whether the US will accept them or deny their asylum and deport them back. The desperation of these migrants may be an indication of a bigger problem in Central America. Why aren’t the governments prioritizing these and declaring the migration crisis as a real problem?
The migrants say that surviving against gang violence and drug cartels were an everyday battle for them. Reports and figures don’t paint a rosy picture either. Since 2012, violence in Central America has only been increasing. In 2016, nearly 70 percent of homicides that took place in Costa Rica were due to gang violence. In 2017, the rate of homicides in Guatemala was 26.1 per 100,000 people while the number was 42.8 for Honduras and 60 for El Salvador per 100,000 people respectively. Many of these murders were related to drugs and drugs trafficking.
Although migration is s common phenomenon, mass illegal immigration is not supported by governments but on humanitarian ground, they sometimes have to bend the rules. Overnight thousands of Rohingyas fled Myanmar and poured into Bangladesh after the Myanmar Army’s crackdown and while being a developing country itself, Bangladesh had to open its doors for these vulnerable refugees. Our government is still supporting them and will continue to do so but only until Myanmar reaches a feasible decision. Similarly, even if the US authorities help these migrants now, they cannot continue to do so if waves of illegal immigrants come crashing in at their border. With a pressing need for skilled worker with basic knowledge of English, the US may not be too keen to have more unskilled immigrant workers. The ultimate solution to this problem can only be fixed by the Central American countries themselves. They must develop ways to lower poverty, generate higher investment and employment and implement aggressive anti-drugs policies.
The writer works with Bangladesh Post