For well over a year, large groups of Central American migrants, travelling together for safety in "caravans", have been fleeing from persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Covering thousands of kilometres through Mexico, they've been heading to the US border in the hopes of getting across and gaining asylum - despite the many dangers and privations en route and warnings by US officials that anyone found entering the country illegally would face arrest, prosecution and deportation.

The largest traveling group, with over 7,000 people, got under way in October 2018, attracting enormous media attention and a furious response from American President Donald Trump, who labelled the caravan an invasion, dispatched troops to the border, reaffirmed his election pledge to build a "wall" on the border to keep migrants out, then announced (after Congress declined to pay for it despite a 35 day government shutdown), that he would declare a national emergency to get the funds.

This provoked a bitter constitutional confrontation with his opponents, which is still playing out and may yet end up in the US Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the October caravans arrived at Mexican border towns such as Tijuana, adding to the thousands of migrants waiting in often squalid, dangerous conditions in hopes of getting to the US.

They have since been joined by others who, notwithstanding the undimmed hostility of the Trump administration and the growing impatience of Mexico, have continued to follow in their footsteps. The crisis, if that is indeed the best way to describe the attempt by many thousands of desperate people to gain sanctuary, continues.

So who are these people and what are they escaping from? As some of the largest groups passed through Mexico at the end of 2018, reporter Eric Campbell travelled with them to find out.

He heard heart-breaking tales of teenagers running for their lives from gang violence, a mother hoping to get medical treatment for her daughter, young families escaping poverty and deprivation.

Even then, few of them were oblivious to the fierce rhetoric coming from the White House or the dangers of being trapped at the border or even being deported, but most seemed to be clinging onto the hope that somehow they'd find a way to a better life in the US.

Source: Al Jazeera