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In Honduras, unaccompanied children and adolescents continue to migrate

20 Jul 2015


Photo: UNFPA.
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From 1 October 2013 until the end of September 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol stopped 68,500 unaccompanied migrant children along its border.

Guillermo, 16, left Honduras to escape the violence. The gangs - or maras - in his neighborhood tried to recruit him, but he refused to join them. Thus he began a journey to "the North" in which he found abuse and misery. Guillermo is one of thousands of children and adolescents who undertake this hazardous journey in search of a better life.

From 1 October 2013 until the end of September 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol stopped 68,500 unaccompanied migrant children along its border. The lucky ones make it to the border without being caught, but thousands of others are captured by the trafficking networks or die somewhere along the way.

Guillermo's trip ended back in his home country, at the migrant reception centre El Eden, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. There, he received clean clothes, food, medical care and a bed while centre workers tried to find his relatives. After a week and a half, he found them but he said they refused to receive him. Guillermo cannot stay in the centre, as it provides only temporary shelter.

A delegation from the UN Honduran Protection Group, which includes the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Food Programme (WFP ), and other partners recently visited El Eden to learn more about the situation of returned migrant children. The delegation met with Martha Reyes, Director of the centre.

According to her, "family reunification, poverty and violence are the main reasons for which children leave Honduras." For many, migration is the only way to escape insecurity and oppression. Unfortunately, the journey often leads to more abuse and violence, especially of a sexual nature.

The "Northern Triangle of Central America" – consisting of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - has one of the highest rates of violence in the world. In this context, children and adolescents are very vulnerable.

Martha Reyes remembered Laura, a 19-year-old woman who arrived pregnant at the centre because she could no longer bear the abuse she had been subjected to during her journey, including kidnapping and rape.

"It is essential to address the problem in the migrants’ communities of origin," said Martha Reyes, and “examine the root causes to reduce further migration. This requires resources from both the Government and society as a whole to go to the communities and to follow up on each of the children to prevent them from taking this dangerous journey," she added.

Together with the affected countries, the UN is adopting measures to guarantee the rights of these children and continuing to work to improve conditions in the countries of origin to provide options other than migration. International and local NGOs are making efforts to ensure the immediate welfare and protection of these children and adolescents.

In El Eden, for example, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with the Honduran Department of Children, Youth and Family to ensure the health and safety of returnee children like Guillermo. The agency also trains staff who work at the centre.
The international NGO World Vision supports the provision of food and the creation of recreational areas for children. A total of 19 institutions, such as the Honduran Red Cross [, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Casa Alianza, among others, contribute to this joint and coordinated work.

Guillermo is now trying to think about how to pick up his life from scratch. There are tens of thousands of migrants who may not have the same opportunity.