17:48 GMT +321 November 2018
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    Honduran migrants taking part in a new caravan heading to the US, talk with Guatemalan police officers on their arrival to Chiquimula, Guatemala, on October 22, 2018

    Caravan Migrants Reject Nieto’s Offer to Stay in Mexico

    © AFP 2018 / ORLANDO ESTRADA
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    Mexican authorities are offering migrants food, shelter, medical aid, schooling, and jobs but say they must turn themselves in and apply for refugee status inside the country.

    Several thousand Central American migrants have turned down Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's offer to stay in Mexico, saying that they are determined to get to the United States.

    Earlier on Friday, Nieto offered the caravan migrants to register in Mexico and apply for refugee status. In return for agreeing to stay in Mexico's two southern states, Nieto offered shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs, in what has been named the "You are at home plan."

    However, the vast majority of migrants have denied the offer, voting against it in a show of hands in the town of Arriaga.

    "Thank you!" they shouted. "No, we're heading north."

    "Our goal is not to remain in Mexico," a 58-year old migrant from the caravan told reporters. "Our goal is to make it to the [US] We want passage, that's all."

    According to Mexican authorities some 1,700 migrants decided to agree to the offer and apply for refugee status. However, earlier this week the caravan reportedly reached 7,500 people, while a second caravan of more than 1,000 migrants is currently following in their footsteps.

    So far, Mexican authorities have allowed the migrants to travel across their territory on foot, but denied the migrants food, shelter or bathrooms, reserving these commodities to those who turn themselves in and register.

    In the meantime, the US is preparing to defend the country's border against the wave of migrants, with the Pentagon sending 800 troops to reinforce a 2,000-strong National Guard crew already stationed at the border. Additionally, civilian groups have begun gathering at the border, willing to provide a helping hand against those who decide to cross the border illegally.

    US President Trump has declared the caravan a "national emergency," with the Department of Homeland Security saying that migrants from the Middle East and criminal gang members are blending in among the Central Americans.

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    Tags:
    migrant caravan, offer, refugee, rejection, commodities, Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico, United States, Guatemala, Honduras
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