Guatemala: Population movement – Operation DREF N° MDRGT017 – Final report – Guatemala

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On July 23, 2021, the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM for its acronym in Spanish) shared information about an alert issued on a possible mass movement (“Caravan”) of 12,000 people arriving from Honduras at the end of July 2021. D ‘following the alert, the authorities in charge of migration carried out inter-institutional coordination activities in order to create an approach strategy to deal with the possible massive population movement. During the days leading up to the probable migrant caravan, the IGM maintained communications with Honduran immigration authorities to provide a binational response, as it had done in past mass movements, where the process of safe return from Guatemala to Honduras is activated.

According to social media and Honduran Red Cross tracking, between 9,000 and 12,000 people were expected to enter Guatemalan territory in mixed flows, including children, adolescents, adults, men and women. Thanks to the communication and coordination mechanism established between the HRC, the GRC and the IFRC, in which the ICRC was invited to participate, it was possible to generate a dialogue and coordination between the two National Societies where it was agreed to implement emergency action plans. in preparation to provide a relevant response to the possible caravan of migrants. The ICRC participated in coordination meetings concerning migrants in El Ceibo, on the border with Mexico. The ICRC provided health and RFL services as well as water distribution.

The National Society prepared to help migrants in transit by providing them with supplies such as hygiene kits, drinking water, first aid materials in branches in Guatemala City, Chiquimula, Mazatenango, Coatepeque, Tecún Uman, Izabal and Peten (as foreseen in the GRC National Action Plan). This plan included the provision of services at the same access points as the previous caravans, based on the experience encountered in previous migration responses, i.e. across the borders of Agua Caliente and El Florido, in the department of Chiquimula, and the border of El Cinchao, in the department of Izabal. And the access points to Mexico would be the borders of La Técnica and El Ceibo, in the department of Petén, and Tecún Umán, department of San Marcos.

Population movements began on July 25, 2021 from Honduras, with small groups leaving San Pedro Sula and entering mainly through the Corinto border at Izabal. Groups that entered Guatemala from July 25 to August 18, 2021 joined groups of fewer than 30 people, many of whom were already gathered in Guatemalan territory. The HRC reported that no more than 100 people gathered at the Gran Terminal de Buses, San Pedro Sula, at the end of July 2021. The GRC kept its 7 humanitarian service points active during the migration route in the departments of Petén, Izabal , Chiquimula, Suchitepéquez, Quetzaltenango and San Marcos. Until August 18, 2021, groups of 15, 20 and 25 people were entering the country every day. The flow of people has decreased and the number of visits has varied from 5 to 15 per day in some HSPs. The decrease in the last two weeks of August 2021 could be attributed to the constant rains which resulted in high river levels along the migration route.

Most migrants do not enter Guatemala through border administrative offices (migration and customs); they cross irregular places – blind spots – which makes it difficult to register them. The National Society has made a count based on the number of migrants who approach HSPs, where records indicate that children represent 15.40% of those cared for. Flows decreased between August 18 and 31, serving a total of 697 people so far since the start of the operation at the Cinchado/Corinto, Izabal border alone. The presence of security forces has diminished along the migratory routes in the northeast. These migrations in small groups are a new modality, as governments stop mass movements. Since August 18, the National Society has continued to provide regular services to its HSPs in Izabal and Chiquimula as an entry and transit migration route. However, population movements and mixed flows in Guatemala continue and increase, increasing the needs and vulnerabilities of people on the move.

Massive return of migrants to the Ceibo border

Based on previous agreements between Mexico and Guatemala, Guatemala has 4 return centers for Guatemalan deportees, formalized and run by the IGM, the return center in Ayutla, San Marcos (return access by land) and the return center in Guatemala City (return access by air), in addition to the two return centers for unaccompanied migrant children, one in Quetzaltenango (by land) and the other in Guatemala City (by air ).

On July 31, 2021, the U.S. government restarted enforcement of immigration restrictions under Title 42, which authorizes immediate public health emergency deportations of migrants. Since then, migrants from Central America awaiting deportation to the United States, others on Mexico’s northern border with the United States, and even others who are on their migratory route, have been returned to southern Mexico by plane, where they are then transported to the border with Guatemala, more precisely to the border of Ceibo, in the municipality of La Libertad in the department of Petén, where there is a new return access point.

Since the week of August 10, 2021, around 5 to 7 buses per day with 25 to 35 migrants per bus, with migrants of various nationalities, mainly Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, have arrived at the Ceibo border crossing. These returning migrants cannot be considered part of a deportation process, due to the lack of official documents from the National Institute of Migration in Mexico and the IGM in Guatemala, this border post does not does not meet the humanitarian standards of a reception center (Conduction as the reception process for expelled migrants is called). The main needs are humanitarian aid, transport and communications. Many of them are family units with children under the age of five, which increases their vulnerability to return without an adequate process or without the necessary conditions.

On August 18, 2021, the Guatemalan Red Cross team mobilized in Petén to provide humanitarian assistance, setting up a mobile HSP outside the Ceibo border crossing, where the presence of actors such as the Casa del Migrante-Belén, the non-governmental organization Refugio de la Niñez (RDN), the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights (PDH), the International Organization for Migration ( IOM) and the Office of the Attorney General.

Services provided included drinking water, snacks, hygiene kits, RFL, phone calls, Wi-Fi, psychological first aid, essential medicines, pre-hospital care and route information and the asylum and refugee procedure in Guatemala. These services were provided to men, women, children and family units, mainly Hondurans,
Salvadoran and Guatemalan. Some returned to Mexico through the La Técnica border, either to complete the proper formalities to enter legally, or because they could not return to their country of origin due to debts incurred.

On August 31, 2021, the GRC withdrew from the border of El Ceibo, Petén due to threats of armed attacks by organized crime groups reported by the government of Petén. All staff have been transferred to Santa Elena, Petén to continue the efforts. A tent has been set up outside the bus station to continue providing assistance to people entering through the El Ceibo border. Based on agreements between the Guatemalan and Mexican governments, Honduran and Salvadoran nationals will be transported from Mexico to the El Cinchado border, and travel arrangements will be made for Guatemalan nationals unable to return to their place of origin .

The RCMP continued to monitor the El Carmen and Tecún Umán border jointly with UNHCR. Those deported by Mexico, mostly Guatemalans and Haitians, are provided with snacks, drinking water, pre-hospital care, PSS, essential drugs and transport to Malacatan National Hospital, San Marcos. Deportations from the El Ceibo border to the El Cinchado or Corinto border in Izabal continued throughout September 2021. Most people said they were denied asylum and refuge in the States -United ; however, they were trying to return to Mexico and seek asylum there to seek employment opportunities. They also expressed that they did not see the point of staying in Guatemala given its proximity to Honduras, which increased the number of people crossing at the La Técnica border post, Petén (another route to Mexico) .

From October 18 to 31, 2021, assistance was provided to buses from El Ceibo border, Peten. These services were provided by night shifts since the buses run between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and on different days. Five to ten buses received daily pre-hospital care, drinking water, essential medicines, hygiene kits, snacks, biohazard protective equipment and recreational kits. Buses leave people at the border without registration.

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