Mexico City, 15 October 2007 – The Mexican First Lady, Margarita Zavala Gómez del Campo, the Representative of UNICEF in Mexico, Susana Sottoli, representatives from UNIFEM, UNHCR, and IOM, officers of national ministries, and members of human rights commissions gathered today to discuss the challenges of child migration in Mexico.
The round table on ‘Inter-institutional dialogue on non-accompanied migrant children and adolescents and women,’ organized by the Mexican Interior Department in collaboration with UNICEF, served as a forum to discuss policies and accountabilities on migrant children in Mexico and mechanisms to create an integrated protection system for migrant children.
“UNICEF will give high priority to migrant children and support Mexican government and society in building an effective and comprehensive system to protect the rights of migrant children and adolescents in Mexican borders,” said UNICEF Representative in Mexico Susana Sottoli. “Migrant children are especially vulnerable to child labour, explotation, and traffic”.
Mexico is bordered on the north by the United States and on the south by Guatemala and Belize. It is a country of origin, transit and destiny of migrants. Every year, almost 40,000 non- accompanied children and adolescents are repatriated from the United States into the Mexican territory. At the same time, a high number of Central American children are repatriated from Mexico to their countries of origin.
From January to May 2007, 17,890 Mexican children were repatriated to Mexico from the U.S and 3,400 Central American children were repatriated from Mexico to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, according to official data of the Mexican Interior Department. Many of the children belong to indigenous populations both in Mexico and in other Central American countries.
These boys and girls try to cross the borders alone hoping to join their parents or relatives who already live in the U.S. There is no precise data on how many children cross the borders and how many of them actually get the support they need in terms of sheltering, protection from abuse, and orientation on how to return safely to their homes. For UNICEF, ensuring a respectful treatment by migration authorities, facilitating reunion with their families and a safe return to their home communities is a priority.
“We must focus on the prevention of migration but it´s also very important that we have reliable data on the budget we need to make sure an integrated protection system for migrant children works,” said Margarita Zavala, during the round table.
UNICEF announced its support to a national assessment on the costs of a prevention, protection, and repatriation system for migrant children and to the establishment of a comprehensive protection system for migrant children. UNICEF also committed to support awareness and social mobilization campaigns for the prevention of migration by boys and girls and on the rights of migrant children. UNICEF will also give technical assistance to the design of a specific system for migrant children on the southern Mexican border, through which many children from Central America try to migrate to the U.S.
“This round table was an opportunity for UNICEF to reaffirm its commitment to support national efforts to ensure that migrant children enjoy greater respect, fulfillment, and protection of their rights”, said Sottoli.
Mexico is the eleventh most populated country with 104.9 million people, 39.7 million of whom are under 18 years of age. In spite of being the world’s 13th largest economy, poverty, inequities and exclusion deeply affect Mexican children and adolescents. Education, protection and public policies are the priorities of UNICEF in the country.
About UNICEF UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.