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Numbers of Latino Migrant Children are ‘Very High’, warns UNICEF

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs statistics in the UNICEF report, more than 75,000 nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were deported during 2015

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A young migrant girl waits for a freight train to depart on her way to the U.S. border, in Ixtepec, Mexico, July 12, 2014. In a report, the U.N. children's agency said that thousands of children trying to escape gang violence and poverty in Central source: VOA

The U.N. children’s agency warns the flow of migrant children from Central America to the United States continues at a high rate, despite the dangers of the journey and the risk of deportation.

In a report released on Tuesday, UNICEF says in the first six months of this year 26,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S. border. Nearly 30,000 more adults and young children traveled as families.

Most are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three of the world’s poorest and most crime-ridden countries.

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“These numbers are very, very high,” said Patrick Moser, who authored the report. “There is no indication that they will get any lower. The conditions in the countries are such that children will continue leaving.”

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Families pay huge fees to smugglers, known as coyotes, to bring them and their children north to a better future.

Violent, harsh journeys

But for many, the journey is violent. Young girls, in particular, face the risk of rape. Migrant children must also cross harsh desert terrain and rivers to reach the U.S.

Many never reach the United States. This year, more than 16,000 migrant children were apprehended in Mexico. Hundreds of others will die during the dangerous and difficult journey, and much more will go missing at the hands of kidnappers, human traffickers, and murderers.

Those who do make it to the United States face detention and deportation.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs statistics in the UNICEF report, more than 75,000 nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were deported during 2015.

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For children, UNICEF says that can “end up being a death sentence,” putting those who fled gangs and organized crime at risk of attack, rape, and murder when they return home.

Central American migrants embrace as they wait for assistance at a center for newly-arrived migrant families with children, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. Assistance includes clothes, a meal, a shower and access to medical care source: VOA
Central American migrants embrace as they wait for assistance at a center for newly-arrived migrant families with children, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas.
source: VOA

“We have to remember that whatever their migration status or nationality, children are, first and foremost, children,” Moser said. “They deserve protection, they need protection, and they are entitled to protection.”

He said that can mean safety from gang violence or drug cartels in their countries of origin or, on the migration journey, protecting them from kidnapping or human traffickers.

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When unaccompanied child migrants are detained at the U.S. border, they are sent to government-operated shelters or are put in foster care homes. UNICEF says they are often in this situation for about one month and are then are handed over to sponsors, who are often relatives.

No legal resources

But many children do not have automatic access to immigration lawyers, the report says. Some children receive free legal help from charitable groups, but others are left to fend for themselves in a foreign legal system.

“In the United States, a defendant is entitled to a court-appointed attorney in a criminal case. These immigration cases are civil cases,” Moser notes, so children are not automatically entitled to a free court-appointed attorney.

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Upset with President Barack Obama's immigration policy, about 250 people march to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office with a goal of stopping future deportations in Phoenix, Arizona. Source: voa
Upset with President Barack Obama’s immigration policy, about 250 people march to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office with a goal of stopping future deportations in Phoenix, Arizona.
Source: VOA

According to statistics quoted in the UNICEF report, about 40 percent of children without a lawyer are more likely to be deported than those who have representation. Those with lawyers had only a 3 percent deportation rate.

UNICEF said children should not be detained and should have full access to health care and other services, as well as be allowed to live with their families whenever possible.

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For those who are sent home, UNICEF works with local governments and partner organizations to help children who have been traumatized by their journey and to get children who are ready back into school. (VOA)

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Did You Know? IOM States Latin America as World’s Deadliest Route for Migrants

The region’s grim yearly record as the deadliest route for migrants for now has been broken by Latin America.

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Latin America
Millman says smugglers often take risks and cut corners to increase profits. He says many drive unsafe vehicles, and this often results in deadly accidents. Pixabay

The International Organization for Migration reports Latin America has displaced previous record-holder, the Mediterranean Sea as the deadliest route for migrants in the world.

Thousands of refugees and migrants have died while making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.

The region’s grim yearly record as the deadliest route for migrants for now has been broken by Latin America.

International Organization for Migration spokesman, Joel Millman, says since February 1, 79 deaths have been reported along this route. He says this is nearly three times higher than the numbers reported in the Mediterranean.

Mexico
Migrants ride in the back of a truck during their journey toward the United States, in Los Olivos, Mexico, Feb. 2, 2019. On Thursday dozens of migrants were killed or injured when the truck they were riding in crashed in Mexico. VOA

He agrees the rise in deaths is a consequence of increased migration from Latin American countries to the United States. He tells VOA the journey has become more dangerous because of greater reliance by refugees and migrants on smugglers to transport them to the U.S. border.

“Circular migration, in which there were repeat customers every year in Latin America going to jobs has largely ended. And, that means that the relationship that migrants have with the people who transport them tends to be much harsher and they are dealing with a more criminal class of smuggler than existed a generation ago. Clearly, that shows up in the numbers of people killed,” he said.

Migration
The journey has become more dangerous because of greater reliance by refugees and migrants on smugglers to transport them to the U.S. border.

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Millman says smugglers often take risks and cut corners to increase profits. He says many drive unsafe vehicles, and this often results in deadly accidents.

Just 10 days ago, he notes a truck accident in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas killed 24 Guatemalan men and women. He says this year has been a particularly deadly one for Guatemalans. He says this crash was one of the worst reported by IOM in the past five years. (VOA)