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Source: Save The Children

As many as 1,400 children have been making a journey on foot in the latest migrant caravan through Central America, Save the Children said today, as they flee poverty, violence and the devastating impact of two hurricanes. The organisation is deeply worried about their safety and wellbeing.

The figures emerge as some 300 migrants – including children – have reached the Suchiate River, which they can cross by swimming or wading through to get from Guatemala to Mexico.

Last weekend around 7,000 migrants from Central America – most of them Hondurans, but also from El Salvador – left their homes on foot. Most are fleeing violence and poverty which has been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also escaping destruction caused by two hurricanes Eta and Iota, which tore through the region in November, affecting millions and leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.

Save the Children estimates that 20 percent of the people travelling together in the ‘Migrant Caravan’ are children.

Among them are 58 unaccompanied children who didn’t make it to the Mexican border. Of these, some were returned to their home countries, others have been put in a protection programme in Guatemala.

Save the Children has deployed a team to Suchiate River at the border between Guatemala and Mexico, to assess the needs of children and families there.

Angela, a 36-year-old mother from Honduras, who is at the Mexican border with her child, said:

“We have lost what we had – our home, our animals, our possessions – and we had no support from anyone, not even the protection of the government. I am aware that the journey is very difficult for my children and me, but we really have no alternative”.

The charity hopes to support people coming into Mexico with food, shelter, child-friendly-spaces, emotional support and education.

Jorge Vidal, Programme Director for Save the Children in Mexico, said:

“These children are hungry, exhausted, and many of them have faced violence. These are no circumstances for children, especially if they are travelling without an adult to watch over them. These children are at a high risk of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking.”

The charity is calling on the governments of Guatemala and Mexico to respect the rights of the migrants, and ensure that they are safe – particularly children, adolescents and women.

Save the Children also spoke out against the forced return of more than 1,000 Hondurans by Guatemalan security forces, including nearly 300 children, under unsafe conditions.

Many people in Honduras live in extremely tough conditions, which have worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout. Save the Children research from August last year found that 52% of Hondurans interviewed in San Pedro Sula had lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic[1], and 26% were already thinking about migrating. Among the migrants are people from El Salvador, where poverty and violence have also been aggravated by the pandemic, with 34% reporting losing their jobs.

Jorge Vidal continued:

A few days ago we were shocked by reports that thousands of migrants, including women, babies and children, were met with violence by Guatemalan security forces. Hundreds of these people are now at the border with Mexico and we expect they’ll be crossing the border in the days ahead, probably some of them in the most dangerous spots.”

“We are deeply worried about the physical and mental health of the children and young people who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty. Children who have fled their homes – particularly if they are unaccompanied – need specialist care.

“Seeking asylum is not a crime. Blocking access to asylum for families fleeing violence has the potential to increase fear and trauma for these children who have already endured an exhausting journey. Countries must ensure that migrants are sheltered humanely, and that children’s rights are respected, otherwise, governments will be violating human rights” 

Notes to editors:

  • Since 2018, Save the Children in Mexico has been operating a care programme for migrant children to support them in their immediate needs and emotional recovery through child-friendly spaces.
  • Save the Children in Mexico is preparing to respond to migrants crossing the border with child-friendly spaces, food, shelter, emotional support and education in emergencies.

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[1] This information was collected in a local survey in Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras with 232 persons as part of a program to prevent forced migration.

MIL OSI