About 8,000 people left Honduras early Friday, fleeing violence, poverty and recent natural disasters.

Thousands of Hondurans set out on foot through Guatemala in hopes of reaching the United States, authorities said Saturday as they flee the violence and economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent deadly storms were tightened.

Guatemala’s immigration service announced on Saturday that between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers had entered the country and headed for Mexico since Friday.

“We have nothing to offer our children and thousands of us have slept on the streets,” said Maria Jesus Paz, mother of four, who said she lost her home to successive hurricanes that struck Central America in November the Reuters news agency.

“That’s why we’re making this decision, knowing that the trip could cost us our lives,” she added.

The first immigrant caravan of the year is set to reach the U.S., where many hope that President-elect Joe Biden will welcome asylum seekers more than President Donald Trump, who oversaw crackdown on immigration.

Migrants hoping to reach the US border walk along a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala [Delmer Martinez/The Associated Press]Biden, who will take office on Wednesday, has promised “a fair and humane immigration system”.

However, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have reached an agreement with the US to halt migratory flows northward, and the Mexican and Central American authorities have coordinated safety and health measures to prevent unauthorized mass migration in the region.

Acting Commissioner for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan warned people on Jan. 8 against joining the caravan. “Don’t waste your time, money, or risk your safety and health,” Morgan said in a statement.

“Migrant caravan groups are not allowed to move north across the region in violation of the sovereignty, public health regulations and immigration laws of their respective nations,” he said.

Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico have deployed thousands of soldiers and riot police to block the migrants’ passage.

The Guatemalan military arrested hundreds of people on Friday, including many families with young children.

Hondurans joining a new caravan of migrants attempt to cross the border in El Florido, Guatemala [Luis Echeverria/Reuters]Even so, the caravan has grown significantly since it left early Friday.

The 28-year-old Eduaro Lanza told the AFP news agency that he had dreamed of living in a country where people with different sexual orientations could live with dignity, “respect … and a job”.

Another member of the caravan, 51-year-old Norma Pineda, told the news agency that she’s been living on the streets since the hurricanes.

“We go because there is no work, no government support. We need food, clothes, ”she said.

In a statement on Friday, the International Committee for the Red Cross said: “The combination of COVID-19, social exclusion, violence and climate-related disasters occurring simultaneously on a scale rarely seen in Central America brings new humanitarian concerns Help out challenges. “

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