On October 12, 2018, thousands of people, including hundreds of children, began to walk from Honduras towards the United States, a distance of more than 1,500 miles. According to UN agencies, “the dangers of inclement weather, including soaring temperatures and lack of shelter are high, especially for children.” UNICEF has noted that illness and dehydration have already affected some children and the risks of extortion, robbery, and sexual violence are always present. UNHCR is also concerned with “the developing humanitarian situation and the known kidnapping and security risk in areas the caravan may venture into.”
As this vulnerable population continues to flee violence and poverty in their countries, Plan International USA urges the governments of Mexico and the United States to:
- Make the necessary efforts to guarantee their human rights, including the right to seek asylum from persecution, and to recognize that children are entitled to special care and assistance under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Prioritize the protection of children and adolescents on the journey and their passage through customs since they are walking and sleeping in insecure areas, placing them at heightened risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.
- Offer humanitarian support, including food, water, shelter, and medical care.
- Ensure that all dealings with the people involved are carried out in a framework of respect, dignity, and international law, free from violence and discrimination.
- Avoid the separation of families.
Plan supports current U.S. law that guarantees the right of all people to apply for asylum regardless of how one enters the country. We concur with the recent U.S. court decision that “asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims” if the Administration’s order is upheld.
In addition, as an organization focused on the well-being of children around the world, Plan urges governments in the migrants’ countries of origin and transit to provide conditions that ensure access to inclusive education, social protections, and accountable governments, so people can enjoy a decent life in their home countries.