Latin America & Caribbean

Syrians who entered Honduras illegally ask for asylum

Policemen escort one of five Syrian men detained at Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 18 November, 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Five Syrian men were arrested at Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa last week

Five Syrians who entered Honduras on forged Greek passports have requested asylum, Honduran officials have said.

They were arrested last week on arrival at Toncontin airport in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, from where they planned to travel to the United States.

Their arrest came just days after the attacks in Paris and raised concerns in the US that Islamist militants could be trying to enter the country illegally.

They have been charged with falsifying documents.

They were arrested after Greek diplomats were called to the airport terminal and found the five did not speak any Greek.

'No militant links'

Shortly after their arrest, Honduran police said there were no signs the men had any links to any militant groups.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The five have requested asylum in Honduras

But the fact that they had successfully travelled through a number of Latin American countries on doctored passports before being stopped in Honduras raised concerns in Latin America and their intended destination, the US.

Honduran police said the five men, who range in age from 21 to 30 years, arrived on a flight from Costa Rica, where they had spent several days.

Police spokesman Anibal Baca said that "we received information from [fellow] police services that these five Syrians left Greece and passed through Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and San Jose in Costa Rica before finally reaching Tegucigalpa".

From there, they had planned to travel north to Guatemala and on to the US, he said.

US Senator James Risch, who is a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, called the news "very troubling".

Honduran Minister for Human Rights Rigoberto Chang Castillo said on Monday that the five had requested asylum "because their lives were at risk in their home country".

The minister said their request would be considered even though they had been charged with forging official documents.

A court will decide later on Tuesday whether they will face trial.

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