Mexico says will restrict migrants to southern states

A caravan of central American migrants heading towards the city of Tapachula on April 15 (AFP Photo/PEP COMPANYS) (AFP/File)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexico said Wednesday that central American migrants will be given "regional visitor cards" near the Guatemalan border that restrict their movement to the south of the country, impeding their ability to reach the United States.

The restriction will be a blow to tens of thousands of migrants, fleeing the poverty and violence at home, who enter southern Mexico and travel across the country in so-called "caravans" in an attempt to seek asylum in the US.

The cards will be given out in the southeastern city of Tapachula, where Mexican media report there are around 5,000 would-be migrants planning to head to the US.

"In appropriate cases, for nationals of neighboring countries, a Regional Visitor Card will be issued which allows multiple entries and exits from the country (but) with the possibility of mobility only in the southern states," Mexico's National Migration Institute said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump has warned of a raft of sanctions -- including closing official border crossings -- unless Mexico cracks down on migrants.

He made illegal immigration a cornerstone of his populist election platform, insisting the US is flooded with migrants and asylum seekers and promising to build a border wall across the length of the south.

It is not clear what effect issuing regional visitor cards will have on the caravans given many of the migrants have entered Mexico illegally anyway.