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Migrants from US-Bound Caravan Get Help Returning Home

A migrant boy, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, stands in a temporary shelter after heavy rainfall in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 29, 2018. The IOM says it has helped hundreds of migrants from the caravan return home.

The U.N. migration agency says that in November it repatriated more than 450 Central American citizens, mostly men, who were in a caravan of U.S.-bound migrants.

The agency says at least another 300 of the estimated 4,000 migrants and asylum-seekers who have arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana expressed an interest in going home. International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman says his agency is coordinating a safe and dignified means of transportation for those wishing to return to their countries of origin.

He tells VOA that people who have concerns for their safety are referred to government institutions that can help them when they arrive in their home countries.

"We are aware of clan violence or gang violence in a lot of these neighborhoods," Millman said. "And, of course, IOM has a long-standing program of assisting LGBT, especially teens, in these countries. So, we know that those kinds of cases certainly will be referred to any social society people and also government institutions where they can help."

Millman says many of the migrants wishing to go home have told aid workers they learned about the U.S. caravans through social media and TV and impulsively joined them. He says few considered the risks and the many exhausting days of walking, instead thinking only that they could get jobs in America.

He says information and registration booths will remain open in Guatemala, Mexico City and Tijuana for migrants voluntarily seeking assistance to return home. The program is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. State Department.

U.S. President Donald Trump has maintained the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border is harmful to the national interests of the United States. Mexico has denied it is willing to let the asylum-seekers stay there pending the outcome of their cases in U.S. immigration courts.

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