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IOM responds to humanitarian needs of migrant caravan in Guatemala

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Some of the 140 migrants who marched with the caravan have requested and received IOM’s support to return to Honduras. © IOM/Alejandro Martínez

Guatemala City – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has provided food, medical care, housing, and transportation and facilitated the return of more than 140 migrants who voluntarily decided to go back to their countries of origin after arriving in Guatemala from Honduras, in the latest migrant caravan.

The caravan, which departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras on 14 January, was widely reported to have quickly grown to more than 4,000 people by the time it reached the Mexico-Guatemala border.

Laura*, one of the migrants who requested IOM's support to return to Honduras, said had learned about the caravan from a television broadcast and decided to join the trek north towards Mexico. She explained why she she was choosing to return voluntarily.

“I used to work in an office, but salaries for women are very low there. That, and sexual harassment at work is what motivated me to leave the country,” she said. “I have decided to go back to Honduras because of my son. I'm traveling with him, and I can't put him in danger.”

As part of its support to the Government of Guatemala, IOM has deployed a team to Ayutla, at the Tecun Umán border crossing, to provide technical assistance to authorities to help identify migrants who may require aid in returning to their communities of origin in Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. According to IOM's Assisted Voluntary Return Programme (AVR) protocol, individuals must voluntarily express their desire to return and be assisted by the Organization during this process.

Under this programme, IOM delivers and coordinates services such as meals, hygiene items, medical consultation shelter, and transportation for people who are stranded, contributing to the efforts of Guatemalan authorities and social organizations.

IOM's AVR Programme was created to provide humanitarian aid to all migrants stranded worldwide. In Guatemala, this includes members of the caravan, as well as those who have arrived in the country under the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) signed between the governments of Guatemala and the United States.

"The ACA deals with the specific matter of asylum and while it does not include or mention IOM, in compliance with our mandate we are on the ground to provide a humanitarian response to those people who have arrived under this agreement," said Jorge Peraza, IOM Head of Mission for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

"IOM makes sure that those who want to return to their country are not in imminent danger or face risks to their life, integrity, and dignity upon return," Peraza added.

As part of the protocol used to manage these cases, IOM conducts psychosocial interviews with the beneficiaries, which has allowed for the identification of persons who require re-evaluation, more advice, information, and, where appropriate, assistance and protection.

"IOM reiterates its commitment to continue providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, as well as to provide support to its Member States to improve their governance of migration to achieve a safe, orderly and regular migration," concluded Peraza.

*Name has been changed for the protection of the migrant.

For more information, please contact Melissa Vega, at IOM Guatemala, Email: mevega@iom.int, Tel: +502 2414 7410

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