SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — No country in Central America exports migrants faster than Honduras. Though the outflow of migrant caravans seems to have abated for the moment, the exodus of Hondurans has not.
Nearly 112,000 unauthorized Honduran migrants were caught by U.S. border patrol during the first four months of 2021, with 38,143 apprehensions in April alone, according to the most recent statistics published by Homeland Security. That’s not to mention the thousands of Hondurans deported each month from Mexico, and the untold number who evade detection and capture altogether.
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The true number of Hondurans leaving their country every month is unknowable, but all available statistics indicate the number is dramatically on the rise. Human rights workers warn the situation could still get much worse, and that some Hondurans are toying with what would be a new trend in migration: southbound migrant caravans.
“It’s possible that caravans will start organizing not only to head north, but also looking to head south, seeking new migrant routes and finding new hopes in other countries,” warns Ricardo Coello, director of programs for children’s rights organization Casa Alianza Honduras.
Coello says he’s increasingly hearing chatter about Hondurans opting for new migrant paths of lesser resistance. Already Mexico is becoming a growing destination for Honduran asylum seekers — more than 19,000 catrachos have filed for asylum in Mexico this year alone, according to government numbers. But now Hondurans are also looking towards Costa Rica and even El Salvador; when your country is as bad off as Honduras, Coello says, everywhere else looks better.
“I think if you ask the youth of this country, nine out of ten young people will tell you they want to emigrate,” says Angie, who fled Honduras when she was 15 to escape recruitment efforts by a local gang member. Angie, whose last name is withheld to protect her identity, was caught in Mexico and deported back to Honduras, where she now lives in fear. She says her goal now is to study until she’s older, then emigrate again, either legally or illegally. El Salvador is an attractive option, “because of the president they have,” she says.
With presidential elections coming up in Honduras at the end of the year, the future is looking more uncertain than ever.
“Honduras today is in an historic situation,” Coello warns. “We are possibly on the cusp of complete social decomposition. We have never been a rich country, or an opulent country, but never in our history have people been leaving the country at the rate they are now.”