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Hopelessness Leads Hondurans to Migrate04/18 10:57


   OMOA, Honduras (AP) -- At a converted seaside hotel, more than 200 Honduran 
migrants stepped off six buses, weary from traveling overnight across Guatemala 
after being deported by Mexico.

   Their journeys ended somewhere in Mexico, short of the U.S. border, and now 
early Friday morning they were back in Honduras making arrangements to return 
to where they started.

   The U.S. Customs and Border Protection last month reported more than 41,000 
encounters with Hondurans at the U.S. southern border. That was some 12,000 
more than during March 2019.

   The reasons Hondurans continue to flee their country have been well 
documented: pervasive violence, deep-seated corruption, lack of jobs and 
widespread destruction from two major hurricanes that struck the region last 

   Here at one of the Honduran government's reception centers for returnees, 
their documents were reviewed, they received medical checks and with the help 
of the Red Cross, they were screened for whether they could safely return to 
their communities.

   Gilles Carbonnier, vice president of the International Committee of the Red 
Cross, visited the center Friday during a weeklong visit to El Salvador and 
Honduras. Among its efforts, the Red Cross works to support people displaced by 

   On Saturday, Carbonnier told of meeting a Honduran cobbler who had a shop in 
a market in Tegucigalpa. One of the region's infamous street gangs was 
extorting him and when he could no longer pay, the gang severely beat him.

   The man saw no choice but to close his shop and migrate to the U.S. He was 
deported more than a year ago, screened at another of Honduras' reception 
centers and eventually referred to the Red Cross. The humanitarian agency 
helped him relocate and gave him some money.

   "With the pecuniary help we gave him, he bought the material to restart his 
cobbler activities and right now he has two shops, six employees and was able 
to restart his life," Carbonnier said.

   Hondurans and others around the world feel the need to migrate because of "a 
lack of opportunity and a lack of hope," Carbonnier said. "And a lack of 
opportunity with a lack of hope results in you saying, 'There's no space for me 
in this country and I'm going.'"

   For Eugenio Sosa, a sociologist at the National Autonomous University of 
Honduras, the assorted factors pushing Hondurans out of the country have 
contributed to a general hopelessness.

   "The people don't go just because it's really bad," Sosa said. "The people 
go because it's bad and because they are certain that it is going to continue 
to be bad and that the country has rotted forever."

   U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been charged with addressing the 
root causes of the region's migration, struck a similar note this week.

   She said Wednesday that the U.S. wants to use its resources -- the Biden 
administration has spoken of $4 billion in aid -- to provide the people of the 
Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras "with some 
hope that if they stay at home, help is on the way and they can have some hope 
that the opportunities and the needs that they have will be met in some way."

   Sosa said even small signs of things beginning to turn around would make a 
difference, even if monumental challenges in the areas of health, education, 
jobs and corruption won't change overnight.

   "If the people begin to see small changes they begin to think that it's 
worth more to stay than to go," Sosa said.

   Honduran migrants set out from San Pedro Sula in caravans in December, 
January and March. All of the attempts to travel safely in large groups fizzled 
by the time they entered Guatemala. But the caravans of recent years only 
represent a minute fraction of the daily migration that goes mostly unseen as 
families or individuals strike out on their own or with the help of smugglers.

   The Trump administration pressured Mexico and Central American governments 
to more aggressively work to stop migrants. The Biden administration has sent a 
more compassionate message that in many cases has been mistaken as an 
invitation, or at least a sign of a friendlier reception. The reality however 
continues to be that the U.S. government quickly expels most of those arriving 
at its southern border.

   When White House officials said this week they had reached agreements with 
Northern Triangle governments to deploy soldiers to help combat migrant 
smuggling at their borders, advocacy groups criticized the administration for 
trying to make it more difficult for people seeking international protection.

   Carbonnier said countries have a right to control their borders, but also 
must treat migrants humanely and with dignity.

   "What we've seen in the Sahara desert, what we've seen in the Mediterranean 
Sea, what we've seen in parts of Asia, is that when stricter measures are taken 
to restrict the possibilities of migrating through more official ways, 
migration continues," Carbonnier said. "The migrants take more risks because 
they have to find alternative means."

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