The summer of 2014 we saw an influx in unaccompanied minors presenting at the U.S. Border, seeking protection and asylum. The United States is not the only country seeing a rise in migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador seeking asylum; Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize have all documented a 435% increase in asylum applicants. The United Nations has also documented this trend, in its report Children on the Run; it reports a sharp increase in apprehensions at the U.S. border, from 5,369 in 2009 to 36,174 in 2013.
Forty-one of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world are located in Latin America, with the most dangerous city in the world being San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A great number of children presenting at our door-step are fleeing either direct violence or recruitment from organized crime. We also see a great number of children having been victims of other forms of violence or torture in their home countries. These are all populations that are extremely at risk of continued abuse, with the only solution for many being making the trek to the United States.
The trek to America for these children is a dangerous one. A number of children report having been sexually or physically assaulted along the journey. Children routinely report having been extorted by Mexican officials, in order to be allowed to travel through the various government checkpoints. The children report having witnessed murders, kidnappings and assaults all through their journey, including their having to ride “the beast,” the train which migrants travel atop, making their way north through Mexico.
Here in the United States, RAICES focuses its efforts on refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. The most vulnerable refugees include, among others, women at risk, survivors of torture, and unaccompanied minors. Without long-term solutions, these at-risk populations will remain in tenuous situations, often resulting in more harm.
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