Embed from Getty Images

For the last two weeks, news media coverage of Central America has focused on "caravans" of Hondurans making their way north from towards the US.   The Salvadoran media is closely following the progress of the caravan from Honduras and reporting all the threats being made by US president Donald Trump.   Now a similar small caravan has left El Salvador and another one is purportedly forming.

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén spoke about migration and the caravans on a visit to Cuba. The Salvadoran president stated that migration was a human right which ought to be respected.   He stated further that his government was "totally opposed" to Trump's vision on migration and that Salvadorans were an important part of the US economy.

On Sunday the media began airing reports of a caravan leaving El Salvador.   The group, which had been organized through Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages, left San Salvador after meeting at the Salvador del Mundo monument.

From Reuters:
A new group of migrants bound for the United States set off from El Salvador on Sunday, following thousands of other Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence who have taken similar journeys in recent weeks. 
The group of more than 300 Salvadorans left the capital San Salvador on Sunday. A larger group of mostly Hondurans, estimated to number at least 3,500, who left their country in mid-October and are now in southern Mexico, has become a key issue in U.S. congressional elections. 
From the Washington Post:
Upon hearing rumors of the caravan, the Salvadoran Ministry of Justice and Security dispatched police to patrol the perimeter of the plaza where migrants gathered Sunday morning, many with small backpacks and some with no belongings at all. 
 The measures were to ensure the safe passage of the migrants rather than hinder their journey, according to a ministry spokesman. 
What is noteworthy is not the number of people travelling, but that they are travelling publicly and in a group.  From the Washington Post:
“El Salvador experiences a migration dynamic where 200 to 300 people migrate each day,” said Cesar Rios, director of the Salvadoran Institute for Migration, a nongovernmental organization based in San Salvador. “A caravan is the visibility of this hidden reality.”
As news of a forming Salvadoran caravan began circulating last week, the Salvadoran government put out a statement: "We exhort our countrymen not to risk their lives through undocumented migration, and especially not to expose the lives of boys, girls and adolescents to a trip of this magnitude, because they are the most vulnerable to whatever type of mistreatment."   The government statement also noted, however, that migration was a human right and that others were free to adopt expressions of solidarity with migrants exercising that right.

The Human Rights Advocate for El Salvador (PDDH) tweeted "Before traveling, migrants ought to inform themselves about consulates of their country, routes, transport,"  along with the phrase "to migrate is not a crime" and the phone number of the PDDH.

Salvadoran government officials announced the formation of a joint effort among different agencies to respond to the migration in "irregular form" towards the US. 

US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes issued a video tweet warning Salvadorans not to attempt to travel undocumented to the US because of the risks of the trip and the determination of the Trump administration to detain all those who cross the border without authorization.

By Sunday afternoon, many members of the caravan had crossed the border into Guatemala after hitching a ride or paying the $1 fare to ride a bus.    Another group was reportedly preparing to leave San Salvador on October 31.

But it is important to put a "caravan of 300 migrants" from El Salvador into context.   A caravan of 300 persons is only about 1/7th of the monthly average of Salvadoran unaccompanied minors or families with children taken into detention at a point of entry or crossing the border away from a port of entry each month this year  (2200 per month is the average).     Three hundred migrants might be a large enough group to protect themselves from dangers along the way, but it is scarcely a blip on the movement of persons north.

Even at its largest size of an estimated 7000 persons, the caravan of persons fleeing Honduras is only 1/70th of the number of persons detained crossing the border last year. 

Yet despite the relative insignificance of these groups compared to overall migration flows, Trump is labelling the groups an "invasion" creating an "emergency" justifying the deployment of 5000 troops and potentially shutting off the southern US border to all asylum seekers.