IOM Targets Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Mesoamerica

7 February, 2017

Costa Rica - Experts from seven Mesoamerican countries who work with unaccompanied migrant children transiting the region have taken part in a regional training organized by IOM in Costa Rica.

Central America and Mexico see large numbers of migrants moving from rural areas to cities, as well as large numbers of people migrating to other countries looking for new opportunities, family reunification and protection. In 2014, over 68,000 unaccompanied children from Central America arrived at the US-Mexico border. In 2015 the number dropped to nearly 40,000. But in 2016, it again rose to over 59,000.

IOM – through its Mesoamerica Program – has organized a specialized course to promote the protection of migrant children since 2015. This year, the strategy has been to train facilitators from different countries in the region who will then offer an 81-hour specialized course to stakeholders in their respective countries.

Program participants included 30 experts from migration agencies, childhood institutes, foreign affairs ministries, offices of the Ombudsman, universities and civil society organizations.

Representatives of UN agencies, including UNICEF, UNHCR and ILO; the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for Migration (RROCM in Spanish) shared their expertise on several panels.

Topics discussed included legislation and protection mechanisms for unaccompanied migrant children, the determination of a minor's best interests, and consular protection for migrant children.

In 2017 the program is expected to be upgraded to incorporate new guidelines for the comprehensive protection of migrant children approved by the Regional Conference on Migration in November 2016.

For IOM specialist Agueda Marin, the training provides an opportunity to keep migrant children as a regional priority. “Since we started to analyze the situation of the migrant children in the region in 2007, we have noticed a steady increase in numbers. They are frequently unaccompanied. The 2014 crisis placed the issue in the public eye – but in 2016 the figures have risen again. This is why the course is so relevant.”

“The flow of unaccompanied children and adolescents has doubled in the recent years in my country and we have to find the necessary measures to address this problem,” said Elsa Ramos, a participant from the Universidad Tecnológica in El Salvador.

The course on migrant children is part of the Mesoamerica Program, which is financed by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and implemented in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.