PANAMA, 21 OCTOBER 2018 - Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, today around 7 million children are migrants or refuge seekers. During the last few days, thousands of people, including an undetermined number of children, are traveling from Central America to the United States, in conditions of intense vulnerability and facing situations of considerable risk. Before this reality, UNICEF, calls on States and society in general to provide protection and immediate and priority attention to children in their migration route.
Violence, poverty and inequality expel millions of children and adolescents from their homes. UNICEF reiterates the need to intensify efforts to address the root causes of violence and poverty, especially through access to education, the strengthening of health systems, social protection, and comprehensive protection of children. UNICEF also advocates for the guarantee of the rights of migrant and refugee children to remain with their parents or caregivers, avoiding family separation; for the use of alternatives to their detention, in no case justified only for immigration reasons; for their access to health services, education, birth registration and social protection, without discrimination of any kind; for its protection against all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation, including human trafficking; and for a determined and effective fight of xenophobia and discrimination against migrant children and adolescents. Likewise, UNICEF recalls the dangers and risks that irregular migration entails for children and the need to increase legal and safe channels for children who migrate and those who seek international protection.
It is imperative that States allow the free entry and registration of children as a precondition for carrying out relevant evaluation procedures in order to provide protection and care through a determination of their best interest by authorities specialized in childhood and adolescence. No child should be returned to their country of origin if there are threats to their life or personal integrity.
"The States of origin, transit and reception must respond to the thousands of children and adolescents fleeing poverty, violence or lack of access to education or basic services such as health" said Maria Cristina Perceval, Regional Director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean. "Without exception, whether Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Venezuelans or of any nationality, States must guarantee the physical and emotional well-being of every child and migrant girl, and ensure their permanence with their families, in conditions of safety and dignity, respecting their superior interest in all actions and official decisions. No child should be the victim of discriminatory acts for any reason. A child is a child”, she said.
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