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A caravan of migrants, travelling from Central America to the United States, walk by the road that links Ciudad Hidalgo with Tapachula, Mexico on Nov. 2, 2018.

CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/Reuters

Why are people leaving their home countries?

Many of those in the migrant caravan are fleeing violence: Honduras and El Salvador are two of the five most violent countries in the world. They, and Guatemala, are highly unequal, with entrenched networks of corrupt politicians and police. Much of Honduras and El Salvador are carved up into territory controlled by gangs that forcibly recruit young people. The migrants are also seeking better economic opportunities:

Many are from impoverished agricultural areas where their ability to survive is being undermined by climate-change-related events including severe drought and flooding. A coffee fungus has ravaged the staple crop in many farming communities in Honduras and Guatemala. Starving farmers head first for the cities in their home countries, but when they face extortion and violence from gangs there, feel they have no choice but to flee north.

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How do they organize themselves into a caravan?

People in the original caravan heard about it from friends, on WhatsApp and on Facebook. Others rushed to join it when they saw coverage on local television news. Intense coverage of the first caravan has led to the creation of several others.

Why are migrants travelling in caravans?

The basic principle is safety in numbers: the passage through Mexico is dangerous – thousands of migrants disappear every year, kidnapped or killed by narco-traffickers, human smugglers or corrupt police. A survey by a migrant-support network two years ago found that 100 per cent of Central Americans who travelled alone reported being robbed; more than 80 per cent of female migrants reported sexual assaults. By moving together, the migrants hope to be safe, but to avoid paying the coyotes who demand as much as $10,000 per person for a trip to the U.S. border – a fee that is entirely beyond the means of most of these travellers.

A man carries a girl through the Suchiate River into Mexico from Guatemala.

ADREES LATIF/Reuters

In Photos: Thousands of Central American migrants march for the U.S. border

How many caravans are there, and where are they? How many people are on the move?

The first caravan that crossed into Mexico on Oct. 19 swelled to a peak of about 7,000 people but has since shrunk back to about 5,000 as people have worn out, given up or sought asylum in Mexico after weeks of walking. A second, smaller caravan of about 1,800 people crossed into Mexico on Oct. 30, a third of 1,500 people crossed from Guatemala on Nov. 2 and a fourth is amassing in El Salvador.

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Are they passing unimpeded into Mexico?

The governments of Honduras and Guatemala both temporarily closed their borders to block citizens from leaving – violating their citizens’ right to freedom of movement – but soon reopened them. Mexican officials tried to close the border with Guatemala in the face of the first caravan, under pressure from the Trump administration, but were overpowered by migrants and then dropped back and allowed migrants to cross, both through the official border post and by river. Federal police amassed on the roads in front of the caravan at various points but have not stopped it for more than a few hours.

Where are migrants sleeping, what are they eating and how are they staying safe?

The caravan has been getting help from the local population in Mexico: The towns they pass through in Chiapas and Oaxaca have themselves sent migrants to the United States for decades and know firsthand the challenges of migration. People donate food, water, clothes, diapers and strollers (Unicef estimates there are as many as 2,500 children in the caravan) and offer rides on trucks. Local municipalities have set up shelters in schools and town squares. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Red Cross and the Catholic church are also assisting with legal advocacy, tents and basic medical services.

Where will the caravan go?

The first caravan’s original plan was to travel straight up Mexico’s Pacific coast, which is the safest route – but also the least developed. Saying they needed access to hospitals and better facilities, the caravan decided two days ago to cross over to the Gulf coast and travel north through the states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas. But these states are the most dangerous, much of their territory under the control of narco-traffickers who also control the coyote routes and are unlikely to let this caravan pass unimpeded if the migrants have not paid.

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On Friday night, the Veracruz governor said he would be providing the caravan with buses to take the migrants to Mexico City. He said his goal was to protect the health and safety of people in his state, but likely was also aware of the level of the international scrutiny on the caravan and the potential bad press should migrants be assaulted or worse. With buses, the caravan should reach the capital within a day or two. Maureen Meyer, an expert on Mexico and migration at the Washington Office on Latin America, predicted that as much as half of the caravan would not continue past Mexico City. “There is a lot of mobilization. A lot of organizations in Mexico are setting up workshops, interviews and information so they really understand what the options are,” she said.

Will all of these people try to cross the border?

Those who opt to keep travelling after Mexico City could proceed to Tijuana – the best-known border crossing, but where there is a months-long backlog to make an asylum claim – or to crossings with Texas, where judges tend to be less receptive but the wait is shorter. Some will attempt to make an appointment for a “credible threat” interview – the first step for an asylum claim – while others may attempt to cross the border with a smuggler and then turn themselves in.

The network of migrant shelters in the north of Mexico sent a formal communiqué to the caravan this past week warning that they should not all arrive at the border together, as resources are already severely strained in each city. Cesar Palencia Chavez, who directs migrant services for the city of Tijuana, estimated that only a few hundred would eventually make a border interview request – because they will give up, wear out or learn that their chances of making a successful asylum claim are low, and instead attempt undocumented entry.

UNHCR says that as many as 80 per cent of those who travelled in a caravan last April passed the credible-threat interview – but only about 10 per cent of Central Americans are eventually granted asylum. However Ms. Meyer noted that the U.S. asylum process is so backlogged that migrants who pass the first interview could buy themselves as much as two years living and working in the United States – and many live with the hope that they will be able to go home again in any case. Eunice Rendon, co-ordinator of the Mexico City-based advocacy group Migrant Agenda, said she expects other migrants who were already traversing Mexico or waiting at the border will try to join up to the caravan – seeking safety or the help of volunteer lawyers who are advising on the asylum process; she predicted as many as 3,000 could approach the border together.

Is this a flood of new migrants?

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The caravan that is currently in Oaxaca is equal to the number of people apprehended at the U.S. border in a couple of average days – in September 1,400 people were apprehended a day.

migrant caravan treks toward

u.s. southern border

​The first of at least four migrant caravans travers

ing from Central America is currently crossing

the isthmus of Mexico from Oaxaca into the

state of Veracruz – heading for the shortest but

most dangerous route to the U.S. border. Some

of the migrants will stop in Mexico City; others

will likely split into smaller groups heading to

border points in California and Texas, where they

will wait and try to make an asylum claim at

backlogged border points or else cross the

border with smugglers​ and then turn themselves

in to border patrol agents.

Border force overview

U.S.

Border

Patrol*

16,605

National

Guard

2,100

5,200

(up to 15,000)

Troops

*2017 totals. Southwest Border Sectors include Big Bend, Del Rio,

El Centro, El Paso, Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, San Diego, Tucson,

Yuma, and the Special Operations Group

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

UNITED STATES

El Paso

TEXAS

LA.

Tijuana

Piedras

Negras

Laredo

MEXICO

McAllen

Nov. 2:

Caravan travelling

from Donají to

Acayucan, Mexico

Mazatlan

Pacific Ocean

Guadalajara

Mexico

City

Key

Caravan route

GUATE.

HOND.

Possible routes

stephanie nolen and JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: Military times; u.s. customs

and border protection; wires

migrant caravan treks toward

u.s. southern border

​The first of at least four migrant caravans traversing from

Central America is currently crossing the isthmus of Mexico

from Oaxaca into the state of Veracruz – heading for the

shortest but most dangerous route to the U.S. border.

Some of the migrants will stop in Mexico City; others will

likely split into smaller groups heading to border points in

California and Texas, where they will wait and try to make

an asylum claim at backlogged border points or else cross

the border with smugglers​ and then turn themselves in to

border patrol agents.

Border force overview

U.S.

Border

Patrol*

16,605

National

Guard

2,100

5,200 (up to 15,000)

Troops

*2017 totals. Southwest Border Sectors include Big Bend, Del Rio,

El Centro, El Paso, Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, San Diego, Tucson, Yuma,

and the Special Operations Group

UNITED STATES

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

TEXAS

El Paso

LA.

Tijuana

Piedras

Negras

Laredo

McAllen

MEXICO

Nov. 2:

Caravan travelling

from Donají to

Acayucan, Mexico

Mazatlan

Pacific Ocean

Guadalajara

Key

Mexico

City

Caravan route

GUATE.

Possible routes

HOND.

stephanie nolen and JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: Military times; u.s. customs and border

protection; wires

migrant caravan treks toward u.s. southern border

​The first of at least four migrant caravans traversing from Central America is currently crossing

the isthmus of Mexico from Oaxaca into the state of Veracruz – heading for the shortest but

most dangerous route to the U.S. border. Some of the migrants will stop in Mexico City; others

will likely split into smaller groups heading to border points in California and Texas, where

they will wait and try to make an asylum claim at backlogged border points or else cross the

border with smugglers​ and then turn themselves in to border patrol agents.

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

UNITED STATES

San Diego

TEXAS

Dallas

Tucson

El Paso

LA.

Tijuana

Ciudad

Juarez

San

Antonio

New Orleans

Nogales

Houston

Pacific Ocean

Hermosillo

Piedras

Negras

Laredo

Chihuahua

Gulf of Mexico

Key

McAllen

Caravan route

Nov. 2:

Caravan travelling

from Donají to

Acayucan, Mexico

MEXICO

Monterrey

Possible routes

Mazatlan

Border force overview

U.S.

Border

Patrol*

Guadalajara

16,605

Heroica

Veracruz

Oct. 12:

Caravan

Leaves San

Pedro Sula

Mexico City

National

Guard

2,100

GUAT.

5,200 (up to 15,000)

Troops

Oct. 21:

Tapachula,

Mexico

HOND.

*2017 totals. Southwest Border Sectors include Big Bend, Del Rio, El Centro, El Paso,

Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, San Diego, Tucson, Yuma, and the Special Operations Group

stephanie nolen and JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: Military times; u.s. customs and border protection; wires

With reporting from Karen Cota.

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