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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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With The End Of Sea Rescue Operations, Migrants Death Will Increase: U.N.

The International Organization for Migration reports more than 2,100 people have died making the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Europe this year.

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Refugees, Migrants
Lifejackets piled on this Greek beach have come to stand for the rigors and danger that migrants face trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. VOA

Leading U.N. humanitarian agencies warn migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea will multiply with the end of sea and rescue operations by Doctors Without Borders and its partner SOS Mediterranee.

The two international charities were pressured by the European Union to put their ship, the Aquarius into dry dock and abandon their life-saving rescue mission.

The Aquarius has been docked in Marseille, France, since early October after Panama revoked its registration at the behest of the right-wing, anti-immigration Italian government.

Refugees, Migrants
In this Aug. 27, 1994 file photo, U.S. Coast Guard crew from the cutter Staten Island are hindered by rough seas in the Florida Straits as they attempt to rescue Cuban refugees. VOA

Italy claims these operations encourage migrants to make the perilous sea journey. It says ending these activities will save lives, a claim hotly disputed by U.N. officials.

UN refugee agency spokeswoman, Shabia Mantoo, says search-and-rescue capacity needs to be reinforced rather than diminished.

“So, we do continue to call strongly for increasing search-and-rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean and for leaving space for NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to contribute in a coordinated manner to these efforts,” said Mantoo. “Saving lives is our primary concern.”

Since it began operations in February 2016, the Aquarius has helped nearly 30,000 refugees and migrants in distress find a safe haven. U.N. Human Rights Spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, tells VOA she is deeply concerned by recent developments.

Refugees, Migrants
Representational Image of Refugees. Wikimedia Commons.

“The provision of support and assistance to migrants must not be criminalized,” said Shamdasani. “The decrease of search-and-rescue by humanitarian organizations and States failure to provide adequate search-and-rescue capacity is resulting in an increase of migrants, an increase of vulnerability of migrants at sea.”

Also Read: Refugees’ Entitled To Claim The Right To Asylum in The U.S: U.N.

Shamdasani says the death rate in the Central Mediterranean this year is much higher than in previous years. She says States must protect the lives and safety of migrants and ensure those who are at risk are rescued and offered immediate assistance.

The International Organization for Migration reports more than 2,100 people have died making the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Europe this year. This is nearly two-thirds of the more than 3,300 deaths recorded globally in 2018. (VOA)