TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A judge Sunday ordered a hearing for five Syrians in Honduras who made it here after a five-country odyssey, as a slice of the refugee crisis unfolds in far-flung Central America.
Honduras say the men were arrested on Nov. 17 with stolen Greek passports, and their original stated destination was the United States. After leaving Syria, they made stops in Lebanon, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica.
Their ages range from 21 to 30, and one says he is a university professor, while the rest assert they are students.
Officials with the immigration department questioned the migrants and concluded that they are, in fact, fleeing from their country’s war and are not Islamist extremists.
Tuesday’s hearing with prosecutors and defense attorneys will determine whether the men should be released, and if so, what their status will be, said Interior Ministry spokesman Yuri Mora.
The men are now being held in a prison in El Porvenir, 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital, Tegucigalpa.
Human rights groups offering legal assistance to the migrants say they have asked for asylum. They originally said they wanted to make it to the United States overland.
The men were detained at the capital’s airport after security was tightened in the wake of the Paris terror attacks of Nov. 13. Honduras is a major conduit for Africans and people of other countries trying to make their way to the United States. This year, 12,600 foreigners were caught entering Honduras illegally, almost all of them with the aim of getting to the United States.