Child migrants must be protected
This statement was issued as part of a visit to Washington by a delegation of civil society organisations from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, accompanied by US organisations. The aim was to talk about the situation of children from the region in the context of migration and child rights. They met with US congressmen and senators and other social actors and organisations based in Washington.
Statement from Casa Alianza Honduras
The different types of violence and poverty that are prevalent in our countries cause thousands of people to flee northwards in the form of irregular migration. The illegitimate and corrupt governments in the region aggravate this situation as they fail to seriously invest in resolving the root causes of forced migration. By intensifying the political crises, the hopelessness and desperation of the population grows. Policies of “zero tolerance” towards irregular migrants on the part of the US government leave people with no options.
In the United States, Mexico and Central America, national security continues to focus on addressing irregular migration with the resulting militarisation of public policies, territories and borders. As a consequence, control, detention and deportation practices for migrants are placed above human security and respectful practices that promote human rights. The home governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico reinforce border security, when it is they themselves that have not protected their citizens at home.
Throughout the year the news has been reporting the deaths of Central Americans under the control of the border patrol, the majority being children, and others who have died crossing rivers, crossing the desert and as a result of other risks en route. In the case of the Guatemalans, most of the dead are indigenous children, reflecting the racism and marginalisation of this system.
The crimes committed by the border patrol agents, such as the murder of Claudia Patricia Gomez, and the death of children in detention over the last 8 months, have remained in impunity.
These deaths don’t matter to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States; on the contrary, they continue to take measures to prevent people accessing their right to seek international protection when they are threatened. Furthermore, they criminalise families who migrate with their sons and daughters, in contravention of the legal framework for the protection of children.
The government of Guatemala has been rushed into signing an agreement to become a “safe third country”, without following the corresponding procedures and in contravention of international treaties, without being in a position to provide security to those requiring international protection. The other countries in the region are in negotiations with the US government regarding the signing of migration treaties; the details are as yet unclear.
In the United States we have seen the largest raids against migrant workers in decades, such as those that took place in August in Mississippi, causing terror among migrant communities.
All migrants are in a vulnerable situation, but the situation is worse for children, particularly if they are indigenous or from outside the continent. They are deprived of their liberty in detention centres, where they are vulnerable to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including sexual abuse and death.
It’s for this reason that the organisations subscribing to this statement are reaffirming the accepted international principles of:
- Giving precedence to the higher interest of children and their right to protection
- Not separating families
- Not detaining children
- Compliance with the principle of non-refoulement and international protection (refuge and asylum)
- Compliance with due process for each case and differential treatment
- The right to justice so that crimes do not remain in impunity
That is why we ask that action be taken to:
- Revoke the agreements that the states have signed behind the backs of the people and in violation of human rights and revoke the agreement with the government of Guatemala as a “safe third country”. It is illegal, illegitimate, unworkable and violates human rights.
- Ensure that the United States does not approve a budget for the next financial year that is aimed at building walls and further repression against migrants. Instead, that it tackles the reasons behind migration and that cooperation is not channelled to governments but through community authorities and civil society organisations; that it is aimed at fighting corruption through public oversight, citizen participation and programmes investing in development of the most impoverished communities.
- Guarantee decent conditions for child migrants and that their care has a rights-based focus, taking into account cultural diversity and differential treatment in the countries of origin/return, transit and destination.
- Support and contribute towards the establishment of effective protection systems to protect children in the United States and in the countries of origin/return, transit and destination, that help to eliminate murders and violence against children and youths in Central America, so that they are not forced into migration.
Signed by the following:
Casa Alianza Honduras
Comisión de Acción Social Menonita – CASM – Honduras
Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador – GMIES –
Asociación Pop No’j
Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Matías de Córdova”
Voces Mesoamericanas Acción con Pueblos Migrantes