NEW YORK, 28 November 2018 – “UNICEF is deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the more than 1,000 migrant children moving through Mexico or waiting at the border in Tijuana for their asylum claims to be heard by immigration authorities in the United States.
“These children have limited access to many of the essential services they need for their wellbeing, including nutrition, education, psychosocial support and healthcare. They are also at risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking while on the road or amidst the crowded camps and respite centres at the border.
“Such difficult conditions come after they have already fled violence, extortion, devastating poverty and a lack of opportunity in their home countries of northern Central America.
“A child is a child first and foremost, regardless of their migration status. In accordance with international law, UNICEF urges all governments to guarantee that uprooted children have access to asylum procedures in a timely manner, no matter how they enter the country.
“UNICEF also urges governments in the region to keep families together and to use proven alternatives to immigration detention, such as community-based case management for families. Detention and family separation are deeply traumatic experiences that can leave children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and can create toxic stress with devastating long-term consequences.
“Finally, we urge governments to renew efforts to tackle the root causes of irregular migration – poverty, violence and a lack of educational and economic opportunities. Until these root causes are addressed in a meaningful way over the long term, families and children will be pushed to leave their homes in search of safety or a more hopeful future via irregular migration routes.
“UNICEF stands ready to work with all governments in the region to ensure that uprooted children are provided with the support and services they need and that their rights are upheld.”