MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico’s government on Saturday moved to discourage the formation of caravans by Venezuelan migrants, saying any who do will not be eligible to enter the United States under a new humanitarian scheme announced this week.
Under a plan announced on Wednesday, Washington said it would grant up to 24,000 Venezuelans humanitarian access to the United States by air, while enabling U.S. officials to expel to Mexico those caught trying to cross illegally by land.
The plan is the latest bid to curb record numbers of illegal crossings at the Mexico-U.S. border fueled in part by a jump in Venezuelans entering Mexico to try to reach the United States.
The Mexican government’s National Migration Institute (INM said it would be in permanent communication with U.S. border authorities, and warned Venezuelans planning to take advantage of the scheme to enter the United States not to form caravans.
“It is therefore important to note that marching in a caravan or traveling irregularly in Mexican territory cancels the process,” the institute said in a statement.
On Friday morning a caravan of several hundred mostly Venezuelan migrants formed in southern Mexico, and though it later dispersed, hundreds more set off on Friday evening in smaller groups also bound for the U.S. border.
On Saturday, INM officials backed by the National Guard broke up migrant groups trying to move from the southern border state of Chiapas into neighboring Oaxaca, where Venezuelans have been gathering to obtain transit permits, an INM source said.
An INM spokesperson said officials were carrying out routine checks.
To qualify for the U.S. program, Venezuelans will need to be able to secure a sponsor in the United States in advance. Mexico’s government had already instructed Venezuelans not to proceed to the U.S. border before making their applications.
(Reporting by Dave GrahamAdditional reporting by Jose Torres in Tapachula; Editing by Sandra Maler)