UN Helps Central American Caravan Migrants Return Home

Central American migrants -mostly Hondurans- moving in a caravan towards the United States in hopes of a better life, travel in a truck from Mexicali to Tijuana, Mexico on November 27, 2018.


The United Nations said Friday it had helped hundreds of Central Americans who travelled with migrant caravans towards the United States to return to their home countries.

The International Organization for Migration said as of Wednesday, it had helped 453 migrants, including unaccompanied children, who had expressed the desire to return to their countries of origin.

In addition, “over 300 Central American migrants have expressed their interest in returning from Tijuana, and IOM is coordinating safe and dignified means of transport for them,” the UN agency’s spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.

He said that a full 84 per cent of those already returned to their countries were men and that most had been returned to Honduras (57 per cent) and El Salvador (38 per cent), while five per cent had been sent back to Guatemala.

“Twenty-five unaccompanied migrant children returned by plane,” he said.

More than 6,000 migrants who travelled to the northern Mexican city by caravan are camped out hoping to apply for asylum or sneak into the United States, fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries.

US President Donald Trump, who has called the caravan an “invasion” full of “hardened criminals” and “thugs,” is seeking to overhaul asylum policy to keep applicants out pending approval.

Facing a hostile welcome and little hope, a growing number of migrants have decided to turn back.

IOM’s return assistance from Mexico is being funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, to the tune of $1.2 million.

Millman rejected that IOM faced any pressure from US authorities to press migrants to return home.

He stressed that migrants who expressed a desire to go back were counselled and screened by IOM to evaluate their options prior to making the final decision.

He said many of the migrants interviewed as part of the return process had said they first learned of the caravans through social media and had joined neighbours and friends “almost on impulse” on the trek north, without thinking too much about the challenges of the journey.

“I can assume that… there will be more” who will want to return home, Millman said.

“How many people have the means or the stomach to spend months in Tijuana?”


At Least 24 Dead In Nicaragua Protests

Students wait for riot police agents in a barricade close to Nicaragua’s Technical College during protests against government’s reforms in the Institute of Social Security (INSS) in Managua on April 21, 2018. PHOTO: INTI OCON / AFP


Days of clashes between protesters and security forces in Nicaragua have killed at least 24 people, a rights group said Sunday, as looting also gripped parts of the Central American country.

The unrest erupted Wednesday over pension reforms, with students a prominent group.

A robust response ordered by leftist President Daniel Ortega has seen the army deployed to the streets, independent media muzzled, journalists assaulted and pro-government demonstrators mobilized to counter the protests.

The European Union, the United States and the Vatican have expressed concern at the situation and called for calm.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights told AFP that at least 24 people were killed since Wednesday, according to a toll it has compiled.

The center’s director, Vilma Nunez, warned that there was “a lot of misinformation” going around that made obtaining the figure difficult.

On Friday, the government put the number of people killed in two days of protests at 10. No more recent official toll has yet been made available.

On Saturday, a local journalist, Miguel Angel Gahona, was shot dead by a bullet in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Some local media reports said a police sniper was suspected to be responsible.

Looting was seen at stores in Managua. In some locations, armed store owners stood guard outside their premises to stop mobs from entering.

Parts of the capital were strewn with rubble, remnants of clashes between demonstrators and riot police.

 ‘Live rounds’

A doctor treating those wounded in the clashes, Eyel Almanza, said in an interview that police officers were resorting to deadly force.

“The wounds suffered by students have been from firearms. Anti-riot police had been using rubber bullets, but not anymore — they are using marbles,” he said.

Soldiers armed with rifles stood guard at public offices in Managua, as well as in the northern city of Esteli. The army said it was “providing protection to entities and strategic sites.”

Police on Thursday said one 33-year-old officer had been shot dead.

Nicabus, an international bus line with links to Costa Rica and Honduras, said it had suspended services due to the violence.

Protest groups announced a march to the Polytechnic University in the capital, where hundreds of students have been holed up since Thursday.

One male student who declined to give his name said the aim now was to see Ortega step down from office.

“We don’t want him as our president anymore. We don’t want this dictatorship,” he told AFP.

The protests are the biggest in the 11 years Ortega has been in power.

On Saturday, the president was rebuffed when he offered to speak to the private sector’s top business association about the pension reforms, which would see employee contributions increased and benefits reduced in a bid to tamp down on a climbing deficit.

The business association said there could be no dialogue unless Ortega’s government “immediately ceases police repression.”


International alarm

Throughout the protests, journalists have reportedly faced attacks, been temporarily detained and had their equipment stolen.

Four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday. By Sunday, only one remained barred.

Panicked residents in Managua and elsewhere emptied supermarket shelves and bought fuel to see through what could become a prolonged crisis.

“With this stoppage, it’s possible we could be left with nothing to eat,” said Ines Espinoza, a resident in the north of capital who walked out of a store with her two children, carrying bottles of water, biscuits and canned food.

The unexpected wave of violence in an otherwise relatively tightly controlled country has caused international alarm.

The United States denounced the “excessive force used by police and others” in Nicaragua.

A US State Department statement urged Ortega’s government to allow journalists to work freely and to engage in “a broad-based dialogue” to calm the chaos.

The European Union called the violence “unacceptable” and also demanded that news media be permitted to do their work.

“Protests need to be conducted peacefully, and public security forces must act with maximum restraint,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, used his Sunday service in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to ask that the “pointless spilling of blood is avoided and the underlying issues be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility.”

Analysts and business leaders said the protests were fueled by dissatisfaction that went well beyond anger over pension reform.

“This has not been seen for years in Nicaragua,” said Carlos Tunnermann, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the US.

“There is a malaise of the population not only over the reforms, but for the way in which the country has been run,” he added.


Dalung Says Siasia Has Not Resigned, Gernot Rohr’s Appointment Unofficial

Solomon Dalung, Samson Siasia, Gernot RohrThe Minister of Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, says he has not been officially informed of the appointment of a new foreign coach for the Super Eagles by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The NFF had in early August, appointed a German, Gernot Rohr, to manage the Eagles, despite Mr Dalung’s preference for a local coach.

He claimed that Coach Samson Siasia, who led the Nigeria’s U-23 football team to win a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, had not resigned, contrary to media reports, although his contract with the NFF had lapsed.

Siasia had told reporters that he had on August 27 resigned as the coach of Nigeria’s U-23 football team because of what he describes as “a disrespectful system”.

Mr Dalung’s frowned at the treatment meted to Siasia by the NFF, alleging that they withdrew his official car in Abuja while he was battling to secure a medal for Nigeria in Rio.

While hinting that he had met with Siasia on Monday, he said Nigeria needed him ‎in football development.

Samson Siasia
Coach Samson Siasia

The Sports Minister further pointed out that even if the NFF would not re-engage him, the Federation should at least, give him some peace of mind to enable him make his contributions in a personal capacity.

He noted that it would be sad to have such coach leave Nigeria for another country out of frustration, just like many athletes did as witnessed during the Rio Olympics.

Abysmal Outing Of Team Nigeria

Dalung also cleared the air on the $390,000 donation to Siasia and his team by a Japanese surgeon, saying that after he met the donor in Rio, he was convinced there were no strings like match-fixing attached to the donation.

He attributed the abysmal outing of the Nigerian Olympic contingent to late release of funds and inability to develop home-grown talents.

The Minister emphasised the need for the National Sports Commission which he said was unfortunately scrapped by a government committee that recommended merger of ministries.‎

He was at the State House on Tuesday in Abuja to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on Nigeria’s outing at the ‎just concluded Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Since Team Nigeria were able to win bronze medal in football, Mr Dalung urged the President to host the team.

Dream Team Win First Medal For Nigeria In Rio

Nigeria-dream-Team-in-Rio-OlympicsThe Dream Team VI on Saturday won Nigeria’s only medal at the Rio Olympics.

The football team, led by John Mikel, defeated hard-fighting Honduras 3 – 2 to clinch the bronze medal at the Olympic Games.

Sadiq Umar scored a brace with Aminu Umar also getting on the score sheet before the Central Americans fought back to take the game to 3-2.

They were earlier denied a place in the finals when they lost 2 – 0 to Germany while Brazil also beat Honduras 6 – 0.

The African Champions have so far, won three medals in their Olympics history.

They won gold in Atlanta 1996, Silver in Beijing 2008 and now have a bronze medal in Rio 2016.