18 December 2017 — International Migrants Day
To escape violence and poverty, thousands of children make harrowing journeys trying to reach the United States.
Every month, thousands of children from Central America risk being kidnapped, trafficked, raped, or killed as they make their way to the United States to seek refuge from gangs and poverty. These vulnerable children, many of whom are travelling unaccompanied, need protection every step of the way: in their home countries, as they cross Mexico, and when they arrive in the US.
Alexis, 18, who lost his right leg trying to reach the US when he fell off a freight train aged 16 in Mexico, sits with his brother Wilson, 6, and their pet Caracara at home in Omoa, Honduras, June 2016.
“I wanted to get there and work and help my brothers and sisters and my mother.”
Alexis’ brothers (right) Angel, 2, and Wilson, 6, play at their home. It is often stifling poverty and lack of opportunities that motivate young people like Alexis to risk their lives on the northward journey.
“We don’t always have money for food,” says his sister Jackie, 17.
In spite of what happened to Alexis (left), Jackie wants to migrate: “It terrifies me just to think about it. But it also terrifies me to live this life, knowing there is no hope. At least I can take the risk, and have some hope.”
Goods transported by raft across the Suchiate River are unloaded in Tecún Uman, Guatemala, July 2016. The river forms the physical border between Guatemala and Mexico and the rafts are used by many migrants to cross into Mexico and head northwards to the US border.
Florinda de Leon, 36, waits to be reunited with her daughter Diana, 16, who was detained for seven days in Mexico before being deported to the Nuestras Raices shelter, in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, July 2016. The shelter cares for migrant minors who are deported from Mexico.
Diana (centre) arrives at the Nuestras Raices shelter. In 2015, some 35,000 children — more than half of them unaccompanied — were held in immigration detention in Mexico, according to Human Rights Watch. Less than 1 per cent of the children apprehended in Mexico were granted asylum.
Diana’s partner Wilmer, 21, and her mother Florinda (centre) speak with a social worker (right) at the shelter before being reunited with her. UNICEF supports governments and other partners in ensuring that the rights of migrant children such as Diana are respected throughout their journey.
Nakisha, 15, at a beach close to her home in Travesia, Honduras, June 2016.
Nakisha would love to leave for the United States to study and get a job as a nurse to support her family — the situation at home is dire: “Where I live there are gangs … They’re the ones who rule here”.