Some 61,500 illegal child and adolescent migrants, many coming from Honduras and El Salvador, were caught on the southern border of the United States by US migration authorities between October 2013 and July 2014. More than 13,000 of them were subsequently deported to Honduras, where the authorities, unable to cope with the huge number of returnees, declared an emergency.
ACT Alliance members on the ground stepped in to support deported migrants and their families during the crisis, trying to track down families, providing full support to children whose families were untraceable, and working to address the mental scars of the children’s perilous and often exploitative journey. The reasons people migrate are rooted in endemic poverty and violence in the region.
Thousands die on the journey
Erika Murillo, in charge of the ACT Alliance Rapid Response Fund in the San Pedro Sula areas of Honduras, said: “The route to the US is extremely hazardous. People put themselves in the hands of ‘coyotes’, traffickers who take
people northwards. Many are captured by authorities, or worse, by criminal gangs, and the migrants routinely suffer very badly. Thousands die. But the risk of the journey still appears less dangerous to people here than the risk of staying, the risks of everyday life here. The violence, particularly violence against women, is the most severe in the world, but it is probably extreme poverty that drives most people.
“ACT members work in the worst of these areas on social programmes to provide support to young people and families, and work with the government on emergency issues, including this crisis of migrants,” he continued. “The real issue, however, isn’t that migrants are being deported, it’s that they feel the need to leave the country and to risk their lives on the journey.”
At the Honduras reception centre for repatriated migrants, ACT provided equipment and furnishings for the refuge’s staff and volunteers to support children. Alliance members then helped track down families and paid for the bus fares of those who could not afford it. The children also received psychological support and a ‘mother’ was assigned to each while the refuge searched for their families.