Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said on Wednesday, April 21, that his government will strengthen surveillance actions on the country’s southern border in order to offer more protection to migrants, especially minors.
During his regular morning press conference, the president explained that he had held a meeting with representatives of the southern states of Chiapas, Campeche and Tabasco, in order to offer more protection to migrant children, who are used “inhumanely” by traffickers.
“An agreement was reached to establish a plan to reinforce what we have been doing, giving more attention to the protection of children, because that is most troubling,” AMLO said.
The president also said that his administration will allocate resources to open shelters for migrant children from the savings generated by his anti-corruption campaign.
The migration of accompanied and unaccompanied minors has increased in recent months, the Mexican government said.
AMLO said that in a week’s time, the southern border strategy will be defined, with different federal, state and municipal agencies taking part.
The president’s comments came one day after a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the number of migrant children reported in Mexico has increased sharply, jumping from 380 to nearly 3,500 since the beginning of the year.
Children, who comprise at least 30 percent of migrants in Mexican shelters, come from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico itself, UNICEF said in a report.
Half have travelled without their parents, which is among the highest proportions ever recorded in Mexico.
The agency estimated that an average of 275 additional migrant children find themselves in Mexico every day after being detected by the authorities, waiting to cross into the United States or to be returned.
Against the backdrop of the covd-19 pandemic, the rise in unaccompanied migrant children, and the arrival of entire families with children, has put significant strain on Mexican assistance centers.
The journey from their homelands toward the United States — often on the run from violence and destitution — is perilous, and can last up to two months, amid extremely harsh conditions, the agency said.
UNICEF has collected harrowing testimonies of sexual abuse, extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, among other violations.
Some migrant women tearfully told UNICEF they were deprived of food, had their belongings confiscated or slept on the floor, covering their children with their own bodies to keep them warm at night.
Last year, UNICEF welcomed Mexico’s decision to reform its migration and refugee laws, which ban immigration detention for children and prioritize the best interests of migrant children in the development of immigration policies affecting them.
It is critical that the international community support efforts toward the successful implementation of these reforms, the agency said.
UNICEF has also called on the international community to place children and women at the heart of all investment plans across Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and southern Mexico, in efforts to create better living conditions and opportunities for communities.
Last year, more than 7,160 “children on the move” benefited from UNICEF-supported assistance in Mexico, such as protection and psychological services, recreational and learning activities, and accommodation.
UNICEF and its partners have been scaling up the humanitarian response across Central America and Mexico in recent months, including stepping up its presence at the Mexico-U.S. border.
So far, over 2,100 migrant children have received assistance, and an additional 10,000 children and their parents will be reached this year.
However, with needs on the rise, and expected to remain high in the coming months, UNICEF is seeking $23 million to fund operations in Mexico to provide vulnerable groups with access to education, improved water and sanitation facilities, life skills and vocational training, alternative care and violence protection activities.
…April 22, 2021