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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
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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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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    America, a country founded by immigrants and run on the manpower of immigrants, should not force them to leave the country.

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Will Polio Workers Step Out of Their Comfort Zones to End Virus?

What's more, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers. Thousands of people who cross this very porous border can easily transmit the virus in both countries.

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Polio
Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same. VOA

The move to end Polio started in 1985 with Rotary International. At that time, polio paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children every year. There is still no cure, but two scientists developed vaccines against the virus in the 1950’s.

Dr. Jonas Salk produced one with an inactivated virus that could protect against polio without spreading the disease. Later, Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine with weakened strains of the virus.

In 1988, public and private groups joined the effort in the Global Polio Eradication Program. Members included governments, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since then, the number of polio cases has dropped by 99.9 percent. Last year, 22 children were crippled by this disease. The wild polio virus exists in only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, but it’s still a global threat.

Dr. John Vertefeuille, from the CDC said, “This last mile is a complicated mile.” It’s not just because of conflict or terrorism. “It’s extreme remoteness. It’s very fragile health systems.” And in these remote conflict prone areas gaining access to children can be a major problem.

If polio exists anywhere, it can once again spread everywhere.

Polio
In many places the vaccinators are women because women can go into the homes, talk to other women and gain access to the children. Wikimedia

Vertefeuille and other experts discussed strategies to realize a polio-free world July 10 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same.

What’s more, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers. Thousands of people who cross this very porous border can easily transmit the virus in both countries.

While the funding and technical support has to come from large, private-public partnerships, immunization teams succeed best if they are local. Approaches have to take culture and customs into consideration.

In many places the vaccinators are women because women can go into the homes, talk to other women and gain access to the children.

Elsewhere, soldiers vaccinate children when they take over an area run by anti-government forces. Vaccination teams have to be prepared to move quickly when there is a lull in the fighting and to deliver multiple doses of vaccine in a short period of time.

Polio
Community volunteers are a great resource. Some get cell phones so they can alert health officials if a child becomes paralyzed. VOA

Surveillance is just as critical. To end polio, you have to know where the outbreaks are. Community volunteers are a great resource. Some get cell phones so they can alert health officials if a child becomes paralyzed.

Another challenge is getting children in migrant groups vaccinated. Vertefeuille says this is where technology helps. The CDC uses satellites to see where people have moved and what areas are abandoned. Clues are where structures have been repaired, where the grass grows on roads, indicating abandoned areas, and where it doesn’t, indicating where people are living.

Dr. Andrew Etsana from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said these groups present a particular challenge because “you have people moving with a virus and it is difficult to track them and vaccinate the vulnerable children in this mobile population.”

Another issue is the nature of viruses themselves. Viruses mutate. So far, the polio vaccines have been effective, but if not enough children get vaccinated, the virus can change, and perhaps make the vaccine less effective. That’s why every child needs to be vaccinated.

Outbreaks that can be avoided by vaccinating the whole population so that there are no gaps for the mutated virus to slip through.

International experts are working with local leaders to close this gap.

Another issue is complacency. Etsana said, “People are getting tired. The program has been going on. They thought it would have ended.”

Rotary has pledged to continue its support, other groups as well. International support and funding is critical to ending polio, but after three decades, many people have never seen polio. Etsana says he sees complacency creeping into all areas of the program. “The funders of the program are also getting tired. The fund is drying up and if the fund dries up and the job is not done, we’re going to have a major problem. We may have reinfection.”

Also Read-After Three Years Struggle, WHO Declares Somalia Polio Free

But, if people recognize the program’s value – it has united communities, established vaccine centers, created partnerships never before imagined – the world can not only end polio, but tackle other diseases as well. The polio program is widely credited with stopping the spread of Ebola in Nigeria while the disease ravaged other west African countries. (VOA)