Migrant Caravans: Explained

Migrant Caravans: Explained

What are migrant caravans?

The term ‘migrant caravans’ emerged as a way to describe the large groups of people moving by land across international borders. Migrant caravans from Northern Central America have increased in number and frequency since 2018.

The first large migrant caravan in recent years departed from Honduras in October 2018. During the journey towards the United States-Mexico border, thousands of migrants, largely from EL Salvador and Guatemala joined the group. For the most part, these caravans tended to be organized through social media. Members of the caravan were motivated to move for a variety of factors, including violence and poverty in their countries of origin, and to seek better opportunities.

Links have also been made between the increase in migrant caravans and the effects of climate change on the region. Many people who were part of the caravans were previously engaged in activities such as agriculture, forestry, cattle raising and fishing, and thus more vulnerable to food and economic insecurity as a result of droughts associated with rising global temperatures. 

How many people are in the caravans?

Estimates of the number of migrants that comprise each caravan vary widely. It is not known exactly how many caravans have departed since October 2018. In January 2020, the first migrant caravan of the year departed from Honduras. Guatemalan authorities reported approximately 4,000 migrants entered through the Agua Caliente border crossing as part of this group.

Why do people choose to migrate in caravans?

Many people choose to migrate as part of the caravan because by migrating in groups they can be more protected against crime, receive more assistance from governmental and non-governmental organizations and pay lower costs (particularly for those who migrate irregularly, the need to pay for smugglers or coyotes is reduced).

What are the dangers of this type of migration?

The routes undertaken by migration caravans entail specific risks. Many of these risks are also faced by those who migrate irregularly in this region. A significant number of people have died while making the journey across Central America. Testimonies of migrants have described kidnappings, disappearances, physical and sexual assault, trafficking and execution.  There is also concern that international criminal groups are profiting from this migration flow through smuggling networks, through which migrants often fall victim to mass kidnappings and extortion.

How have migration policies in the region changed?

In response to the migrant caravans in 2018 and as a result of widespread public debate, the United States Government deployed 7,000 active-duty military officers to the border with Mexico. By early 2019, thousands of migrants were apprehended at the United States border, others received Mexican humanitarian visas while others were deported or chose to return to their countries of origin.

Since April 2019, the Mexican government has shifted its policy to prevent the transit of migrants through the country. When the January 2020 migrant caravan left Honduras and reached the border between Guatemala and Mexico, their request for permission to transit through Mexico to the United States border was denied by the Mexican government. Approximately 140 migrants chose to return to their communities of origin through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return Programme and an estimated 2,000 returned to Honduras through the Guatemalan and Mexican authorities.

Regardless of the means and status (regular or irregular) of migration, a human rights-based approach must remain at the centre of migrant governance. It is fundamental that States protect all migrants from exploitation, violence, abuse and arbitrary detention, especially in situations of mass migration. It also obliges States to acknowledge and address the particularities of specific vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied children.

¿How to prevent child trafficking during the pandemic? 5 internet safety tips to help families stay safer.

¿How to prevent child trafficking during the pandemic? 5 internet safety tips to help families stay safer.
Categoria: Trata de personas
Autor: OIM- Oficina Regional San José

July 30 marks World Day against Trafficking in Persons, an initiative promoted with the aim of raising awareness of human trafficking victims and the protection of their rights. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, between 2017 and 2018, 74,514 victims of trafficking were detected in more than 110 countries. In 2018, about one third of the overall detected victims were children.

As a consequence of physical distancing and restrictions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual spaces have become more important than ever. Many families are also managing schooling from home, and as a result many of us are spending more time online. Many counter-trafficking and violence experts are concerned about how criminals are also adapting, and the increased the risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children, including trafficking. The methods used by traffickers are also changing to take advantage of the current situation. Some traffickers seek to recruit children online, in digital platforms. Using digital platforms such as social networks or instant messaging applications, "cyber criminals" actively pursue children, who become an easy target in their search for acceptance, attention or friendship.

Given this, it raises the question: What can families do to prevent child trafficking in digital media?

For this purpose, we provide a list of recommendations:

1)   Explain to your children how easy it is to create a fake profile on social media. Behind a fake profile can be a lone trafficker or a extensive criminal network looking for potential victims to exploit and abuse.

2)   Teach your children about the risk of talking to strangers in the digital world. Traffickers are aware of the risk of monitoring and surveillance when using technology, that’s one of the reasons they may initially contact potential victims on open groups in social media and move communication to encrypted or anonymized services, such as WhatsApp messaging on cellular phones.

3)   Build trust with your children. Under no circumstances their privacy should be violated (sneaking into their accounts or mailboxes). The generation of trust is vitally important, especially when children need to be accompanied or make inquiries about suspicious activity or people for the purpose of child trafficking.

4)   Discuss with your children the importance to avoid taking and sharing photos and videos with strangers. Traffickers can use them to maintain control over the victims by threatening their distribution.

5)   Good privacy settings help ensure that you have control over who can see your publications. In this way, you can prevent strangers from seeing your posts, photos or videos. Traffickers seem to master the intricacies of linking means of coercive control with digital technologies. They can use photos and videos of their victims to share to assess their suitability for some modelling or sexual job.

In the last 15 years, the number of children among trafficking victims has tripled and the percentage of children has increased fivefold. Faced with this situation, States and intergovernmental organizations have developed a variety of international legal instruments to combat child trafficking, such as the Palermo Protocol. However, the responsibility to combat child trafficking also falls on us as a society, guaranteeing children a comprehensive development and a dignified life: this is known as the best interests of the child.


[1] Unicef, Digital Coexistence Awareness Guide, 2017.

[2] UNODC, Global Report On Trafficking un Persons, 2020.