UNHCR seeks $18 mn to help C.American kids trying for US


Guatemala City (AFP)

The UN refugee agency has launched a campaign to raise $18 million for thousands of unaccompanied Central American children trying to get to the United States.

The "Children on the Run" campaign seeks funds from country and institutional donors as well as the public, with the principal aim of providing safe places for the minors, the head of the UNHCR for the Americas, Renata Dubini, said in a statement.

Central America is now the main source of undocumented migrants seeking to enter the United States.

Most are fleeing gangs and poverty in the so-called Northern Triangle made up of violence-wracked El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Children are especially vulnerable, with boys recruited by gangs as foot soldiers and girls at risk of sexual violence.

UNHCR estimates that 182,400 migrants fled the Northern Triangle last year, an increase of ten times what was seen five years ago.

Many make it only as far as Mexico. In that country, more than 16,000 unaccompanied children were held by authorities in 2016.

Asylum applications in Mexico soared 152 percent last year, and more than 1,000 percent since 2011, Dubini said.

Asylum applications in the relatively more stable Central American nations of Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama have also increased.

The United States under President Donald Trump is determined to make it more difficult for undocumented migrants to enter. In 2015, the US witnessed a spike of more than 60,000 unaccompanied children trying to enter the country.