Guatemalan security forces on Monday broke up a caravan of about 4,000 Honduran migrants trying to reach the US on a journey of thousands of kilometers through Central America on foot, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporters witnessed.
Police advanced on the group in a coordinated move, striking batons against their shields to make an intimidating noise, prompting the migrants to scatter.
The group was still on Guatemalan soil, and some regrouped to resume their quest for a better life further north.
Thousands of others began returning to Honduras after clashing with the police.
Angie, a 21-year-old Honduran migrant, told AFP she was returning to Honduras to try and officially document her entry into Guatemala, as well as presenting a negative COVID-19 test, one of Guatemala’s requirements for crossing its borders.
“I want to continue to the United States; I don’t want to stay in Guatemala,” she said.
The caravan, which departed Honduras on Friday last week, has been held up since Saturday at the Guatemalan town of Vado Hondo, about 50km inside the border.
They have been waiting to pass, sleeping outdoors and blocking a key road where a massive logjam of cargo trucks has built up as a result.
As the migrants retreated before the advancing security forces on Monday, several threw stones at police.
The officers responded with tear gas, as they attempted to drive the group back toward the Honduran border, thus clearing the road for trucks.
Women carrying small children were among those to flee before the police.
“I am going with my son. In Honduras I have nowhere to live,” a woman told the Guatevision channel, catching her breath after a brisk run.
“If we had money, we would not be here heading north. They treat us like dogs, it should not be like this,” said another woman, holding a small girl.
On Sunday, the group was confronted by police and soldiers with tear gas and batons under strict orders to stop anyone without travel documents or a negative COVID-19 test from going any further.
Several migrants were injured in Sunday’s clashes, a health worker said.
About 9,000 migrants have set out from Honduras since Friday.
On Monday, Guatemalan migration authorities said more than 1,500, including 208 children, had since returned to Honduras. About 800 people were stuck in a town neighboring Vado Hondo.
Those determined to stay the course, including families with young children, spent a second chilly night outdoors on Sunday.
They slept on the asphalt road or on patches of grass, the lucky ones wrapping up in blankets, the rest donning sweaters or long-sleeved T-shirts packed among their sparse belongings.
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