NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY, 21 June 2019 – “Some 15,500 migrant children and young people were registered by the Mexican migration authorities in the first four months of the year, or 130 a day, according to the latest estimates from the National Migration Institute. This figure marks an increase of over 50 per cent over the same period last year.
“Most of these children and young people come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries where adolescent homicide rates are among the highest in the world.
“Mexico has for decades been a country of origin, transit and destination for families fleeing poverty, gang violence, extortion and death threats.
“Mexico has also long welcomed back migrants who have been returned from the United States and these returns will continue.
“Unless the root causes of these migration flows are addressed, the situation is unlikely to change.
“In Tijuana earlier this week, a young mother told me that a violent gang in her neighborhood in Guerrero, in southwest Mexico, kept threatening to kill her and her baby unless she paid them money. She was left with only one option: Flee north. In her own words: ‘I want to build a life elsewhere. If I stay, they will take away my life.’
“The shelters I visited in Tijuana were brimming with children and young people who had similar stories: Some, like the single mother from Guerrero, were waiting for their asylum application to the United States to be processed. Others were apprehended when trying to enter the US. Others have lived for most of their lives in the US but were repatriated and now face an uncertain future.
“Wherever they are and whatever their story, these children are children first and foremost. They need to be protected in all steps of their migration journey. In particular, we urge all countries to:
- Prioritize the best interests of children in the application of immigration laws and procedures;
- Keep families together; and
- Find alternatives to the detention of children based on their migration status, such as foster families or group homes.
“A successful approach to the migration crisis in Central America requires the commitment and coordination of all the countries involved. Only then can we collectively address the root causes of migration, identify, realise and champion future opportunities for children and young people, and uphold the rights of children on the move.
The Comprehensive Development Plan that Mexico has spearheaded together with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) can play an important role in making migration optional, rather than inevitable. UNICEF looks forward to contributing to the plan, including through a programme to help provide safe schooling for up to 500,000 children in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
“During my trip, I met with President Andres Manuel López Obrador, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero and other senior government officials, as well as with representatives of the private sector.
“Our discussions focused on the need to equip young people with the education and skills essential to their future, the linkage between Generation Unlimited and Mexico’s Jovenes Construyendo el Futuro, and UNICEF’s work on the situation of vulnerable children in Mexico and on the migration crisis.
“UNICEF and partners are committed to helping children and young people throughout the region acquire the quality education and skills they need to build better – and safer – futures for themselves and their countries.”