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To escape gangs and poverty, Central American children making risky journey to US — UNICEF

24 August 2016
To escape gangs and poverty, Central American children making risky journey to US — UNICEF

The flow of refugee and migrant children — seeking refuge from brutal gangs and stifling poverty in Central America and making their way to the United States — shows no sign of letting up, despite the risks of being kidnapped, trafficked, raped, or killed on the journey, a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found.

In the first six months of 2016, almost 26,000 unaccompanied children and close to 29,700 people travelling as a family — mostly mothers and young children — were apprehended at the US border, according to the report, Broken Dreams: Central American Children’s Dangerous Journey to the United States.

"It is heart-rending to think of these children — most of them teenagers, but some even younger — making the gruelling and extremely dangerous journey in search of safety and a better life. This flow of young refugees and migrants highlights the critical importance of tackling the violence and socio-economic conditions in their countries of origin," said UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Justin Forsyth, in a press release.

The report was released ahead of the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, on 19 September at UN Headquarters, in New York, as well as a summit on the global refugee crisis, hosted by US President Barack Obama during the high-level segment of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly on 20 September.

According to the report, most of the apprehended people are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which have some of the world’s highest murder rates. They seek to get away from brutal gangs that target them or poverty and exclusion that deprive them of education and hope. Many also travel north to reunify with their families.

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Photo: UN

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