Over 3,000 U.S.-bound migrants cross illegally into Guatemala in caravan

US President Donald J. Trump (L) shakes hands with Border Patrol Agent Adrian Anzaldua (R) during an event to honor federal immigration agents in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 20 August 2018. The event, which the White House is calling a 'Salute to the Heroes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection', comes after the administration's 'zero-tolerance' policy caused hundreds of migrant children to be separated from their parents. EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO

GUATEMALA CITY/TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Large groups of Central American migrants heading to the United States from Honduras barged past armed Guatemalan security troops to force their way into Guatemala on Thursday.

By Sofia Menchu and Gustavo Palencia

Migrants began gathering near the border at 6.30am and by mid-day more than 3,000 migrants had crossed illegally, said Guatemalan officials, appealing for help from Honduras.

The caravan is the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic hit Central America in March, shutting off travel as well as triggering a rise in unemployment and poverty.

It comes just a month before the U.S. presidential election. Republican President Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a key part of his platform.

In one incident shown on Facebook Live, a crowd of about 1,000 mostly young men and women carrying backpacks and small children forced their way past armed Guatemalan security forces at the Honduran border post of Corinto. Many of the migrants were wearing face masks.

Guatemalan authorities had tried to prevent them from entering by demanding proof that they did not have the coronavirus, said immigrants and officials from both sides of the border.

Guatemala’s top migration official appealed to Honduran authorities to act.

“(We) ask the Honduran authorities to stop these flows in their territory. This cannot be repeated,” Guatemalan director of immigration, Guillermo Diaz, told Honduran HRN radio station, voicing fears that more migrants may be on the way.

Previous caravans have incurred the wrath of Trump, whose Republican party has used harsh rhetoric about immigrants as a tactic to motivate U.S. voters in past elections.

“We want to pass peacefully, we don’t want conflicts but we are determined to reach the United States,” said a young man with a mask who identified himself as Alberto on the HCH television channel, before the migrants burst through.

“In Honduras there is nothing, there is no work and you cannot live,” he added.

The pandemic has battered the economies of Central America, and killed more than 2,300 people in Honduras.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu and Gustavo Palacio; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Richard Chang and Rosalba O’Brien)


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