By Delphine Schrank
TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (Reuters) - Hundreds of members of a caravan of migrants in Guatemala tried to breach the border and enter Mexico on Friday as the Mexican government vowed to tackle the convoy that U.S. President Donald Trump says must be stopped before it reaches the United States.
Mexican television footage showed the Central American migrants pushing through Guatemalan border posts and streaming onto a bridge connecting the two countries only to be halted by dozens of Mexican police dressed in riot gear on the other side.
Some migrants violently shook fences at the border, the footage showed. Some of the group then began turning back toward Guatemala, but hundreds of men, women and children remained on the bridge spanning the Suchiate river.
Earlier, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Mexico City and discussed the caravan, which left Honduras last weekend.
"It's a challenge that Mexico is facing, and that's how I expressed it to Secretary Pompeo," Videgaray told a joint news conference.
Several thousand Honduran migrants seeking to escape violence and poverty have moved through Guatemala on the way to Mexico, with some hoping to enter the United States.
A similar caravan of Central Americans that formed in southern Mexico in late March also drew the ire of Trump, who on Thursday threatened to deploy the military and close the southern U.S. border if Mexico did not halt the new procession. [nL2N1WY0C5]
Such a move would cause chaos on the border, one of the world's busiest, and badly disrupt trade.
Mexico's government has sought assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help process migrants claiming refugee status at the border, which could allow it to disperse the train of people and placate Trump.
Pompeo said he and Videgaray spoke of the importance of stopping the caravan before it reaches the U.S. border. Pompeo thanked Mexico for its efforts to address the migrant flow, including calling in the United Nations for assistance.
On Friday morning, Videgaray said the caravan had close to 4,000 people and that the migrants could individually present their claims to enter Mexico or seek refugee status.
"We haven't had a caravan or group of this size seeking refuge at the same time, that's why we've sought the support of the United Nations," he told Mexican television.
Mexico says the migrants will be processed and that those without a legitimate case to travel onwards or stay in Mexico will be returned to their countries of origin.
POLICE ON BORDER
Hundreds of Mexican police were sent to guard the border between the Guatemalan town of Tecun Uman and Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico to prepare for the migrant caravan's arrival.
Manelich Castilla, the head of Mexico's federal police, said at the scene that his officers had restored order after the rush of migrants towards the border, and would begin allowing people to be processed in an orderly fashion.
Six police had been injured, Castilla said.
UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said the agency is reinforcing capacity in southern Mexico to offer counselling, legal assistance and humanitarian aid to asylum-seekers.
"UNHCR is concerned that the mobilization of such a large number of people in a single group will overwhelm the capacities that exist in the region," he told a news conference.
In contrast to the earlier caravan, which moved deeper into the interior of Mexico before officials began intensive efforts to process the migrants, the Mexican government has focussed on the new group right on its southern border with Guatemala.
(Reporting by Veronica Gomez, Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Delphine Schrank in Ciudad Hidalgo and Tom Miles in Geneva and Edgard Garrido in Tecun Uman; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Alistair Bell)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
Updated Date: Oct 20, 2018 02:06:04 IST