Giving Compass’ Take:
• Kids in Need of Defense and Centro de Derechos Humanos describe barriers to protection for unaccompanied migrant children along Mexico’s southron border.
• How can funders work to ensure that children are protected as they flee violence?
• Learn about South American immigrants in the United States.
Children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are arriving at Mexico’s southern border fleeing high levels of violence, including gang violence and forced recruitment, sexual and gender-based violence, and child abuse. They cannot access justice or protection in their countries due to weak rule of law and widespread corruption and impunity. While some children plan to continue their journeys to other countries to seek protection, many others decide to seek protection in Mexico. Regardless of their choice, children who arrive in southern Mexico need appropriate shelter and medical and mental health services. Rather than provide the protection and services migrant and refugee children need, Mexico holds these children in detention and in most cases rapidly deports them to their country of origin.
Children face multiple barriers to accessing protection and support in southern Mexico, including extended detention in closed-door facilities, lack of child-friendly information on their right to seek asylum, and lack of access to legal representation. The vast majority of children are rapidly deported without a substantive evaluation of their best interests or the dangers they could face upon return to their country of origin. For children who seek asylum in Mexico, Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR, has limited capacity to process their asylum applications, leading to extended periods of uncertainty as children await decisions on their cases.
Tapachula, a city near Mexico’s southern border and a key point in the migration route for Central Americans traveling to Mexico or the United States, is unsafe for children seeking protection due to precarious living conditions, a lack of support services, discrimination by the local population and government institutions, and in some cases the presence of the persecutors they fled in their countries of origin.
In addition, as Mexico further intensifies and militarizes immigration enforcement at its southern border in response to U.S. pressure, massive detention and rapid deportation of migrants, including unaccompanied children, are dramatically increasing.
Many of the children who arrive in southern Mexico urgently need international protection due to the high levels of violence in Central America and lack of adequate government protection in their home countries. Children and youth from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala face widespread violence and forced recruitment by gangs, sexual and gender-based violence, and child abuse. They cannot access justice or protection in their countries due to weak rule of law and widespread corruption and impunity. In many cases, they face violence and discrimination by the same police and other government institutions that are charged with protecting their communities.