Guatemala: Children on the move need cross-border collaboration

13 Jul, 2022

Without international collaboration, it’s difficult for child migrants to receive the care and support they need. This can lead to family separation, loss of education, a lack of access to healthcare, and increased risks to personal safety. In this post, Miguel Ángel López Guerra, Director of CONACMI, a Family for Every Child member organisation in Guatemala, reports on his recent visit to the USA and Mexico as part of a delegation led by officials from the Guatemalan Congress and members of their Commission on Children and Families.

 

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“Over 57,000 unaccompanied Guatemalan children and 43,000 families with children were detained at the US border in 2021. These numbers are staggering, and this is not an isolated year. Many of these children will face dangerous journeys – sometimes completely alone – and uncertain futures if they do make it to their destination.

In May and June 2022, I was invited to participate in a visit to the USA and Mexico led by the Commission on Minors and Families, part of the Guatemalan Congress. We visited residential shelters for unaccompanied child migrants, and met with Guatemalan communities, government officials, and other organisations. Our findings have been gathered into a preliminary report.

It is clear that, in order to work towards a better future for Guatemalans who migrate, we need change to happen in Guatemala itself as well as in transit and destination countries.

Many children and families are migrating because they do not have the opportunity to build a good life for themselves in my country. The preliminary report findings call on the Guatemalan state to build an effective child protection system which would ensure that children’s rights are met at home. This would reduce the need for children to undertake migration journeys in the first place.

The report also calls on action to support children and families who have already migrated or decided to migrate, by ensuring that budgets are increased for consular protection, and that Guatemalan citizens can obtain up-to-date passports and identity cards. Alongside these calls on the government of Guatemala, our preliminary report also urges greater inter-agency collaboration across borders so that children and families who are part of the migration system are properly supported and followed-up in ways that will enable them to integrate into new communities or reintegrate into communities of origin if they return or are deported.

This trip provided the Commission with the chance to build vital links across the length of the US-Guatemala migration path; and to establish joint actions to make sure children and families are better supported. It also gave me the opportunity to advocate for family-based alternative care methods, such as foster care, as opposed to housing children in institutional homes. I hope that the final reports will lead to action from the people and organisations who have the power to make a difference. In the coming weeks, I’ll also be working with other Family for Every Child members in the USA and Mexico to launch our latest child-led research and to develop our strategies for advocating for better rights and protections. Together, I believe we’re in a strong position to build a system that collaborates across borders to keep children and families safe.”

Find out more about how we are campaigning on issues affecting children on the move – visit our Childhood On The Move Initiative hub today.

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