Migrants in caravan shrug over US vote, eye change at home

Migrants from Central American countries -mostly Hondurans- heading in a caravan to the US, get on board a truck on the Puebla-Mexico City highway, in Puebla state, Mexico, on November 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
0

Migrants in caravan shrug over US vote, eye change at home

  • Mexican authorities say some 3,230 migrants from the caravan have requested refuge

MEXICO CITY: The migrants in a caravan used by President Donald Trump as a campaign issue were almost universally unaware of the results of the US midterm elections.
The Central Americans were more concerned with the dangers of northern Mexico as they struggled to reach the US border, still hundreds of miles away, than with who controls the US Senate and House of Representatives.
Kenia Johana Hernandez, a 26-year Honduran farmworker, left her country with her 2-year-old daughter because she couldn’t afford child care or schooling. Asked if her decision to emigrate had anything to do with the US elections, the answer was a simple, “No.”
For her, the caravan was merely a safety measure. “If I had come alone with just my daughter, maybe I wouldn’t have even made it this far because it is so dangerous,” she said.
Gilberta Raula, 38, from Samala, Guatemala, joined the caravan at the Mexican border because it seemed her best chance to get her 15-year-old daughter out of the country. She left six other children behind, but wants to give her daughter an opportunity to study and work.
She had only the vaguest idea of the issues surrounding Tuesday’s US midterms.
What she did know, she said, was that “the US president has acted badly.”
“The way we hear it, he doesn’t like anybody,” she said of Trump. Told that Trump’s Republican party had lost control of the US House of Representatives she said, “Ah, good.” She, like others, expressed hope that somehow it might help their chances of finding refuge.
Franklin Martinez, a 46-year-old farmworker from La Esperanza, Honduras, said Wednesday he’d probably stay in Mexico City for a while before setting off again northward, to see if things changed following the US elections.
“Because now it’s an anti-immigrant wave,” Martinez said. “They’re not well-received at the border.”
Experts agree that the formation of this latest caravan and the others that have set off for the US border before it have far more to do with politics in Central America and current conditions in Mexico, where drug gangs frequently kidnap migrants to demand ransom from their families in the US.
“The first concern is collective security, there is safety in numbers,” said Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope. “There is a political logic to this, but it’s not exactly aimed at influencing the US elections.”
“It brings pressure on the authorities of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador more than anything else,” he said. “This sends a message that there is a human rights crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America.”
That view was shared by former Honduran lawmaker Bartolo Fuentes, who helped formed the caravan of just a few hundred migrants that set out from Honduras on Oct. 13, before growing to as many as 7,000 at its peak. Fuentes told a news conference at the Mexico City stadium where the migrants are staying that the caravan embarrasses the Honduran government “because now the world is seeing the tragedy we live with.”
Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the Republican losses in the House suggest that Trump tried to use the migrants “politically, to depict the caravan as an invasion, and it didn’t work.”
Benitez said the caravan has put as much pressure on Mexico as the United States. After the migrants entered, Mexico came under pressure to accelerate the refugee and asylum process for Central Americans.
“The caravan shows that Mexico could give more humanitarian treatment to these people,” said Benitez, “that Mexico should treat these people the way Mexico wants the US to treat migrants.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Christopher Gascon, the Mexico representative for the International Organization for Migration, estimated there were about 6,000 migrants at the sports complex and maybe another 4,000 in caravans that are working their way through southern Mexico.
But some migrants had been visiting the organization’s tent asking about how they can return home.
“They perhaps didn’t have a very clear idea of what they faced,” Gascon said. He said the first bus leaving Mexico City to take migrants back to their countries was scheduled to depart Wednesday night with 40 to 50 people.
Meanwhile, other migrants were focusing on the daunting task of reaching the US border and presenting asylum requests there. The US elections occupied only a small part of their thoughts.
Nora Torres, a 53-year-old Honduran, anxiously asked a reporter: “How did he (Trump) do? Did he do well or poorly?“
Torres had run a small restaurant but closed it because gangs were demanding too much protection money.
For her, Trump’s threats to make attaining asylum even more difficult, of detaining applicants in tent cities and of sending as many as 15,000 US troops to the southern border were hard to understand.
“The United States needs Hispanic labor, because it is cheaper,” she said. “So why do they discriminate against us?“


Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

A picture taken on March 18, 2019, shows a man taking pictures of a large crack in the ground as a Zimbabwean soldier helps guide pedestrians across a bridge on the Risitu River during search and rescue operations in the wake of devastating floods and mudslides caused when Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
0

Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

  • Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique

BEIRA, Mozambique: The death toll from a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique and Zimbabwe rose to more than 300 on Tuesday as rescuers raced against the clock to help survivors and the UN led the charge to provide aid.
“We already have more than 200 dead, and nearly 350,000 people are at risk,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced, while the government in Zimbabwe said around 100 people had died but the toll could be triple that figure.
The UN, meanwhile, said that one of the worst storms to hit southern Africa in decades had also unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Malawi, affecting nearly a million people and forcing more than 80,000 from their homes.
Four days after Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall, emergency teams in central Mozambique fanned out in boats and helicopters, seeking to pluck survivors from roofs and treetops in an inland sea of floodwater, sometimes in the dead of night.
Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa were drafted in to fly rescue missions, while an NGO called Rescue South Africa said it had picked up 34 people since Friday night, using three helicopters.
“It is the only way to access the people that are stranded,” Rescue SA’s Abrie Senekal told AFP, saying the NGO was trying to hire more helicopters.

Ian Scher, who heads Rescue SA, said the helicopter teams were having to make difficult decisions.
“Sometimes we can only save two out of five, sometimes we drop food and go to someone else who’s in bigger danger,” he said.
“We just save what we can save and the others will perish.”
In Nhamatanda, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Beira, 27-year-old Jose Batio and his wife and children survived by climbing onto a roof.
But a lot of their neighbors “were swept by the water,” he said.
“Water came like a tsunami and destroyed most things. We were prisoners on the roof,” he told AFP after they were rescued by boat.
The city of Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city and a major port, was immediately cut off after the storm. According to the Red Cross, the cyclone damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the city of half a million people.
President Nyusi, speaking on Tuesday after attending a cabinet meeting in the ravaged city, said the confirmed death toll stood at 202 and nearly 350,000 were “at risk.”
The government declared a national emergency and ordered three days of national mourning, he said.
“We are in an extremely difficult situation,” Nyusi said, warning of high tides and waves of around eight meters (26 feet) in the coming days.
On Monday, Nyusi had said he feared more than 1,000 had died and more than 100,000 people were in danger.

The storm also lashed eastern Zimbabwe, leaving around 100 dead, a toll that could be as much as 300, local government minister July Moyo said after a cabinet briefing.
“I understand there are bodies which are floating, some have floated all the way to Mozambique,” he said.
“The total number, we were told they could be 100, some are saying there could be 300. But we cannot confirm this situation,” he said.
At least 217 others are missing and 44 stranded, officials said.
Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique.
Families started burying their dead in damp graves on Monday, as injured survivors filled up the hospitals, an AFP correspondent said.
Military helicopters were airlifting people to Mutare, the largest city near Chimanimani.
The storm swept away homes and bridges, devastating huge areas in what Defense Minister Perrance Shiri said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war.”
Some roads were swallowed by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was mobilizing aid for some 600,000 people, saying the world did not yet appreciate the scale of the “massive disaster.”
So far, it has dispatched more than five tons of emergency provisions to the affected areas.
“WFP aims to support 500,000 to 600,000 people in the coming weeks,” spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
“I don’t think that the world (has) realized yet the scale of the problem,” he said.
In Malawi, 920,000 people have been affected by the cyclone and 82,000 people have been displaced, the UN said.
“OCHA (the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has deployed resources to support assessments and information management, and UNICEF is deploying additional supplies to affected areas including tents, water and sanitation supplies and learning materials to affected children,” it said.