“Many times just saying that your child is alive is a great joy for many families”: testimony from the Honduras border

1 June, 2017

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are return days in Honduras. On the border with Guatemala, several buses throughout the day transport migrants returning to their country after a dangerous journey that has generally taken them to Mexico. They are mostly women and children, many of them unaccompanied migrants.

On that border of Corinto, two children protection officers, are waiting to accompany them on the two-hour journey that will take them to San Pedro Sula, at the Center for Child and Family Care. Their care work then becomes critical to mitigate the risks associated with irregular migration and to identify the most vulnerable migrants for  referrals.

Child Protection Officers try to put a dose of humanity in the midst of the anguish, fear and worry that normally seizes migrant families aboard these buses. "They are afraid that their children will be taken away from them, that the police will arrest them or bring charges against them for having left the country irregularly. We first tried to welcome them to their country, we explained that they only go to San Pedro Sula to register and receive information, and that they will offer them warm Honduran food there”. This is how one of the officers explains his work aboard the returnees’ bus.

"With this introduction, many take confidence and begin to ask questions, tell their story or vent for the moments of violence they have faced," explains the second Officer. It is then that the work of guiding, providing information and alleviating the tension that they have loaded in their route is fulfilled.

Before buses depart from the border, Child Protection Officers have been tasked with providing at least basic cleaning products to families, diapers for boys and girls and clear information on what will happen upon arriving in San Pedro Sula. Many times, it is these officers who call the parents of unaccompanied minors, to inform them that their children are returning. "Many times the parents thank us because they thought that their children had died or that they were missing," says one of them. "Many times just saying that your child is alive is a great joy for many families."

 

Additionally, the work team plays a vital role of prevention in the border area. "We do a monitoring work on the area, identify cases of rights violation and do a work of awareness and referrals with the different local actors."

This accompaniment to migrant children is part of a pilot program that began to be implemented in Honduras in 2016 by the Children, Adolescents and Family Division (DINAF), supported by the Mesoamerica Program. The presence of the support team for children has undoubtedly marked a substantial contribution for the protection of the human rights of migrants in Honduras by facilitating coordination for migration management, focusing on migrants facing the highest risks associated with irregular migration.