Mexico sees rise in number of child migrants staying at shelters en route to US

The National System for Integral Family Development (DIF) and the National Migration Institute (INM) report that they have helped 6,113 migrant children traveling alone and originating mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador so far this year.
Many of the children were at risk of falling into forced labour, rape, child pornography and abuse at the hands of smugglers. (Photo: Archive/EL UNIVERSAL )
01/07/2015
20:39
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Although there are no exact figures of child migrants heading to the United States via Mexico and Central America, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, reports numbers of children staying in shelters for migrants in Mexico are increasing.

The National System for Integral Family Development (DIF) and the National Migration Institute (INM) report that they have helped 6,113 migrant children traveling alone and originating mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador so far this year.

The unaccompanied children were rescued by immigration officials from traffickers, who had promised to deliver them to their relatives in the United States.

Many of the children were at risk of falling into forced labour, rape, child pornography and abuse at the hands of smugglers.

A total of 135 minors from Central America have come to ask for accommodation and food at the "Hermanos del Camino" (Brothers of the Road) shelter for migrants In Ixtepec, in the state of Oaxaca so far in 2015. Of this figure, 40 were unaccompanied.

Some volunteers at the shelter interact and play with the children to make their journey more bearable.

"What we have seen, from our point of view at work, is that there is an increase of children, of families in general. Maybe two to three years ago, it was not that common to see children in shelters and youngsters nor groups of families. But now, it is much more common, these groups exist, who are requiring different kind of attention," said a member of the UN's Regufee Agency in Tapachula, Rafael Zavala.

"We have a lot of unaccompanied minors and children. Several left two days ago but many more will come. They are the best test that this selfish world we have created has been destroyed and is decadent," said Mexican Priest Reverend Alejandro Solalinde.

According to one of the coordinators at the hostel, the reason why families choose to emigrate with their children is the violence prevailing in their countries.

This 16 year-old, who requested to remain unidentified, left Honduras to avoid a band of "maras" who wanted to recruit him. He said that gang members constantly go to schools to threaten students and many become involved with them as their only option for survival.

"(Back home) We're at school and they (drug traffickers) threaten us saying that if we don't join their ranks they will kill us or we will go missing so that is why all youngsters look for an adventure. You risk your life," Byron said.

At the shelter in Ixtepec there are at least a dozen children, ranging from the ages of 2 to 16 years. Most travel with parents who also are fleeing violence in their countries and in search of a better life for their children.

Some migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who choose not to go to the shelter prefer to hide close to the train station in Ixtepec and wait for the train to continue on their way to Veracruz.

One of them explained that agents of the National Migration Institute have become stricter and therefore they are forced to hide out during the day.

This group of migrants is hiding under the bridge waiting to board the train arriving from Arriaga, Chiapas.

"The thieves are those at the checkpoints. It's difficult to cross and it's also difficult to cross into Chiapas as migrants. The laws are being violated because we are have rights and it would be good that the laws were different with us as Central Americans," said a migrant from El Salvador, Marcos Hernández.

Others prefer to walk up to 12 hours daily, fearing that migration will stop them at any time.

The rush of Central American children entering the United States illegally has eased from last year's crisis levels but remains brisk, according to new government data, and immigration experts fear the onset of warm weather could bring another surge.

More than 68,000 children travelling without parents, mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, were detained last year for entering the United States without immigration documents.

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