Who are the migrant caravan

How are migrant caravans created?

In the USA as well as in Central America a struggle is being waged for the sovereignty of interpretation over the youngest "caravans" of migrants who have meanwhile arrived in Mexico and are moving further north. Some voices describe the mobilization of around 9,000 Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans as an "unnatural" phenomenon pushed by an alliance of autocratic rulers of Latin America and powerful economic groups to harm US President Donald Trump in the run-up to the "midterm elections".

Both Nicaragua and Venezuela are accused of sponsoring the youngest caravans in order to divert media attention from their countries. Both are in the sights of the world public because of systematic violations of human rights. The Honduran government recently accused the opposition party LIBRE of being a puppet of the Venezuelan head of state Nicolás Maduro and of persuading over three thousand desperate compatriots to migrate. Honduras and Guatemala have announced investigations to punish the "promoters" of the migrant caravans.

Migrants are being instrumentalized

"International law does not provide any sanctions for those who help migrants," says Frank Wolff, from the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) in Osnabrück. "However, states can punish actors if they classify this aid as acts of war or criminal activity. International agreements oblige all states to give their citizens the opportunity to leave their territory at any time. But while no state has an obligation to provide migrants with Crossing its own national territory and withholding, no country has an obligation to take in migrants. This legal vacuum puts migrants in a vulnerable position, "explains the migration expert.

Latin American leaders Ortega and Maduro: Welcome affront to the White House?

The migrant caravans are currently being exploited from all sides, so Wolff. In doing so, they formed spontaneously and gradually grew, because people feel safer in larger groups on the dangerous route north. Social media also played a major role in this growth in the individual groups.

"In addition, not all of these migrants dream of settling in the US. The migrant trains that have started to move are shrinking and growing every day, as hundreds of migrants either join or leave the group every day," adds Wolff .

Vote with your feet

"Associations of this kind are manifestations of social processes that are not new," says Günter Maihold, deputy director of the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) in Berlin. This time, however, the caravans would coincide with the "midterm" elections, which are important for Trump, and the takeover of the Mexican presidency by the progressive Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The heads of government in Venezuela and Nicaragua, Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, may see the caravan as a welcome affront to the White House, but in Maihold's point of view, neither of them spurred the caravan on.

Immigrants on the US Southern Border: There are many reasons for the exodus

"I'm not surprised that so many Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans are turning their backs on their countries. I would say that they voted with their feet because they lost faith in the possibilities for change at the ballot box," says Günter Maihold and lists the reasons that drive people in Central America into exodus: lack of work, educational opportunities and public services, deterioration in social fabric, poverty and the high probability of falling victim to criminal gangs, political or gender-based violence.

Lots of dangers on the way north

"I am also not surprised that there are many activists and NGOs who support migrants on their dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico, adds Maihold. Frank Wolff from IMIS agrees:" The character of these caravans is decentralized, but they work as a magnet for many Central Americans, as they convey a feeling of security. Women, adolescents and children benefit most from the cohesion of the caravan, "says the Osnabrück researcher.

"The caravan will definitely not arrive at the border with the United States as a single monolith, as Trump and his supporters imagine," says Wolff. They would split up into smaller groups beforehand and look for ways to cross along the porous borderline. Only in this way would the migrants have a chance to come to the USA, and they would know that too. "That is what they have already done in the last five or six years," says Günter Maihold. "The current caravans are unusually large, but they are not the first".