5 Things You Need to Know About Unaccompanied Children

Center for American Progress

Detainees play as others sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas.
Detainees play as others sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas.

The number of children fleeing violence by themselves to the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador has skyrocketed over the past few months. No less than 47,017 children have arrived so far in 2014—a 92 percent increase from 2013—and as many as 90,000 children are expected by year’s end. These children are escaping danger in their homelands and running for safety not only to the United States, but also to neighboring nations including Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica.

As attention on this issue shifts from the nation’s southern border to inside the Beltway, it’s important to keep the following five facts in mind.

1. Violence is causing these children to flee

Violence is the leading factor forcing unaccompanied children from Central America to the United States. Honduras has become the murder capital of the world and gang violence has increased dramatically—including in El Salvador and Guatemala—over the past few years. In fact, El Salvador and Guatemala rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in terms of the highest worldwide murder rates. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State describes the violence level in Honduras and El Salvador as “critically high.”

Interviewing more than 400 unaccompanied minors, researchers found that many of them had fled forcible ‘join or die’ gang recruitment or gang threats against themselves and their families. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, 58 percent of unaccompanied minors “raise potential international protection” claims. This means that they have a viable claim to refugee protections under international law.

One 17-year-old interviewed by the UNHCR fled El Salvador after gang members who had killed students at his school told him “if [he] returned to school, [he] wouldn’t make it home alive.”

1. Violence is causing these children to flee

Violence is the leading factor forcing unaccompanied children from Central America to the United States. Honduras has become the murder capital of the world and gang violence has increased dramatically—including in El Salvador and Guatemala—over the past few years. In fact, El Salvador and Guatemala rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in terms of the highest worldwide murder rates. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State describes the violence level in Honduras and El Salvador as “critically high.”

Interviewing more than 400 unaccompanied minors, researchers found that many of them had fled forcible ‘join or die’ gang recruitment or gang threats against themselves and their families. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, 58 percent of unaccompanied minors “raise potential international protection” claims. This means that they have a viable claim to refugee protections under international law.

One 17-year-old interviewed by the UNHCR fled El Salvador after gang members who had killed students at his school told him “if [he] returned to school, [he] wouldn’t make it home alive.”

2. Smugglers and traffickers prey on these children, who are increasingly younger and female

The demographics of the children entering the United States have changed dramatically. For much of the past decade, most of the children crossing the border were older males. But many of those arriving now are female and the average age is dropping: Children under age 10—and some much younger—are now making the dangerous journey from their homelands.

Even worse, smugglers and human traffickers are taking advantage of the crisis by enticing children who are looking for a way to escape the violence to flee by acting as transportation from the home country to the United States. These people are often related to—or working in concert with—the same groups perpetrating the violence within the children’s home countries. Girls are routinely raped on the journey and gang violence along the route is common.

While some of these children do have relatives in the United States, reuniting with family was the primary goal for less than one-third according to researcher Elizabeth Kennedy. Instead, violence forced them from their hometowns and home countries.

3. This is a regional crisis

The violence currently rocking Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala is not only causing a refugee crisis in the United States. Every country in the region has also been affected as children are running for their lives and seeking safety wherever they can find it. According to the UNHCR, asylum requests from Honduran, El Salvadoran, and Guatemalan nationals have increased 712 percent in the neighboring nations of Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize since 2009.

Continue reading 5 Things You Need to Know About Unaccompanied Children

15 killed in fresh Mpeketoni attack

Daily Nation

Another attack in Mpeketoni last night left at least 15 people, including two police officers killed, police have confirmed.

A Nation journalist at the scene counted nine of the bodies, who residents said were picked from their houses by name by the attackers, and were then lined up at a swampy Kaisare area and shot in the head.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku initially said the attackers destroyed Safaricom communication equipment before they undertook the new killings. Continue reading 15 killed in fresh Mpeketoni attack

Jonathan faces the north

Africa Confidential

After two months in the global spotlight, the insurgency in northern Nigeria is fast turning into a national political crisis

The deepening security crisis in northern Nigeria and along the borders with Cameroon and Niger has galvanized more attention internationally than in Abuja. This week, it was Britain’s turn to hold a security conference on northern Nigeria. It invited an impressive group of diplomats and security experts. Many also attended the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, a Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A month ago it was France that hosted the regional summit at which President Goodluck Jonathan declared ‘total war’ on the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, widely known as Boko Haram, dubbing it the Al Qaida of West Africa. His fellow leaders, especially Cameroon’s Paul Biya, looked markedly less enthusiastic about the prospect of total war in the region.

Then in August, United States President Barack Obama will host a grand Africa summit in Washington and security will top the agenda, along with economic renewal. Jonathan has been invited to that too, despite some coded critical messages passing between Abuja and Washington. Continue reading Jonathan faces the north

U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone

The New York Times

By MICHAEL PAULSONJUNE

US Bishops
Catholic Bishops chatted during a coffee break at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday in New Orleans. Credit Edmund D. Fountain for The New York Times
NEW ORLEANS — They are rethinking what kinds of houses they live in, and what kinds of cars they drive. They are wondering whether, in anticipation of the 2016 presidential election, they need to rewrite their advice to parishioners to make sure that poverty, and not just abortion, is discussed as a high-priority issue. And they are trying to get better about returning phone calls, reaching out to the disenchanted and the disenfranchised, and showing up at events.

Fifteen months into the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States find themselves unsettled in ways large and small, revisiting both how they live and what they talk about in light of the new pope’s emphasis on personal humility and economic justice.

Over the last several days as the bishops gathered here for their semiannual meeting, they grappled with the substantive and stylistic implications of a still-new papacy.

After several of their colleagues faced recent criticism for lavish houses, several bishops said in interviews that they were paying new attention to their own spending, mindful of the pope’s decision to eschew the apostolic palace for a small suite in a Vatican guesthouse, and aware that their parishioners are concerned about how the church uses its money. Continue reading U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone

Search for Nigerian Girls May be Impeded by Government’s Longstanding Lack of Coherent Strategy

IPS

By Ini Ekott

Nigeria IPS 2
A meeting session of the #BringBackOurGirls daily protest campaigners at Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

ABUJA, Jun 13 2014 (IPS) – The search for the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, could be hampered by a series of policy and information flip-flops by the government, the latest one of them being a public disagreement on policy between the president and the military chief.

The extremist group abducted close to 300 school girls nearly two months ago on Apr. 14 in Chibok, northern Nigeria. The abduction triggered a global campaign and a massive social media movement under the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel have sent experts to Nigeria to assist in rescuing the girls.
“If both sides say no force, no negotiation, that means no one is willing to do something. What we would like to see is all options are on the table- including negotiations.” — Ubong Ben, of Facts and Figures Continue reading Search for Nigerian Girls May be Impeded by Government’s Longstanding Lack of Coherent Strategy

Meeting with Representative Paul Ryan and Moving Forward

Network Interconnection

By Sister Simone Campbell, SSS

In the middle of May I had the opportunity to meet briefly with Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. That meeting is still echoing in my mind as I try to find ways to bridge his understanding of the issues of poverty and what we know from our work in economically challenged communities.

I was struck that when I opened the meeting with my affirmation of his examining the issue of poverty he told me that some Democrats were angry with him for working on “their” issue. We both agreed that Pope Francis says that we all need to be concerned about those living in poverty and to have dialogue about the best way forward.

Congressman Ryan sees that the conservative movement has done good things in education with charter schools and vouchers. I said that it was good for those who could take advantage of them, but it left behind in public schools the most struggling and challenged students. This weakened the educational experience for those who did not get into a charter school. I tried to point out that any program has successes and some unintended negative consequences. I think he agreed. Continue reading Meeting with Representative Paul Ryan and Moving Forward