Violence and threats increasingly push family emigration from the northern part of Central America. Almost 20 percent of the families interviewed in a UN survey admit that they are fleeing violent contexts, and the figure is even higher – it exceeds 30 percent – in the case of unaccompanied minors.
In 2019, the number of family units detained at the southern border of the United States soared 456 percent to 432,000. In an attempt to explain these figures, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have interviewed more than 3,100 people.
Almost one in five people surveyed have cited violence as a reason for their emigration from the north of Central America, with situations that include death threats, extortion, recruitment by gangs and gender violence.
Violence directly affects children and adolescents, especially in relation to death threats associated with recruitment, while numerous adults have acknowledged that they have received threats from gangs directed at the whole family and that they have chosen to emigrate with their children to not leave them in danger.
The UNHCR representative for the region, Giovanni Bassu, explained that “the change in the dynamics of forced displacement from northern Central America reflects a complex reality in the countries of origin, where entire families are threatened and flee together to find a place sure”.
For her part, the head of UNICEF in the area, Jean Gough, has lamented that “many people in northern Central America are literally running for their lives while gangs attack entire families”, in such a way that “they do not leave any relative behind because they fear retaliation from gangs in the communities. “
Gough fears that there will be even more migrations “in the coming weeks and months” due to the foreseeable increase in poverty and violence derived from the COVID-19 pandemic and the two “devastating” hurricanes that recently hit Central America. Last week she already tried to leave a first “caravan” from Honduras, made up mainly of victims of these tragedies.
By the end of 2019, more than 800,000 people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had sought protection within their countries or had crossed international borders in search of asylum. UNHCR and UNICEF have called on different governments to fulfill their obligations and guarantee the rights of these migrants, especially when it comes to minors.