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Some 6,500 Honduran migrants in caravans traveling north to Guatemala, officials estimate

TEGUCIGALPA, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Small skirmishes broke out between Honduran security forces and migrants trying to cross the border into Guatemala on Friday night, with Guatemalan officials estimating around 6,500 people to be heading north to the United States.

Groups of Hondurans continued to trickle past the border, even as the Guatemalan military detained hundreds of migrants, including many families with young children.

The spokeswoman for Guatemala’s immigration authority, Alejandra Mena, estimated that there were some 6,500 Hondurans making their way north, with 3,000 to 3,500 of them already in Guatemalan territory. A Honduran police officer told local television that “more or less 5,000 people” had walked past a checkpoint along a highway as they formed a caravan.

Honduras’ Security Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

A video seen by Reuters showed hundreds of Hondurans, chanting and holding up the Honduran flag, crossing the border at El Florido into Guatemalan territory.

The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

While Biden has promised a more humane approach to migration, in contrast to outgoing President Donald Trump’s hardline policies, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico are coordinating security and public health measures to contain unauthorized crossings across the region.

That will likely provide some relief for Biden, whose aides have privately expressed concerns about the prospect of growing numbers of migrants seeking to enter the United States in the early days of his administration. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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