Migrants across Latin America are now using illegal routes to get back home. The Covid-19 situation has made it difficult for most of them to find a secure way of getting back home. The regional border closures are also leading to a new way of moving across borders.
The new human smuggling ring is coming to the rescue of stranded migrants, while the rate of cross border movement has reduced dramatically over the last few months. According to human rights activists, the US policy is largely to be blamed for the kind of unrest that is being seen at the US border.
Since March, more than 11000 undocumented migrants have been sent back to Mexico, including some unaccompanied children. The hopes of many Central Americans were shattered. Olga Byrne is the immigration director at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). According to Byrne who spoke to VICE news, the fact that the asylum system has come to a grinding halt, is one more reason why people are feeling desperate to use illegal means to cross the borders through water bodies.
Covid-related border closures in Central America mean return migrants have to pay coyotes to get back in. As always, harsh migration restrictions don’t stop migration, they create business for traffickers. https://t.co/ykhOQ8Y8lo— Michael Paarlberg (@MPaarlberg) August 28, 2020
The closure of Guatemala’s borders is exasperating the problem further. Only nationals can use it; but for everyone else has to find an alternate route. Guatemala has a strategic positioning where it shares its northern border with Mexico. To its south are El Salvador and Honduras. Citizens of El Salvador and Honduras can’t enter and cross Guatemala legally, so are technically trapped in Mexico. They are also the ones who would have resorted to illegal immigration through water routes.
Coyotes are the new mode of transport. They are the preferred ones. There are risks involved of being caught by police or being put and then being put away in quarantine. But desperate people are taking the risk of doing this.
According to observers, once travel and border restrictions around the pandemic lift, migration from Central America to the United States will resume with renewed force due to the economic damage countries in the region have sustained as a result of the lockdown. Until then, however, smugglers will continue to exploit this new trend.