More than 30,000 children and adolescents from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico returned to their countries of origin in 2016, leaving them vulnerable and at risk of violence.

In this context, Save the Children launches the "Buscando el Norte" campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers faced by migrant children and to demand that the authorities guarantee children`s rights and opportunities for those who have been returned.

 

This campaign calls for the creation of protection mechanisms in transit countries for children and adolescents. No child should be detained or deprived of their liberty when in the custody of the authorities. It has to be a protected, safe space whilst providing adequate conditions.

"Buscando el Norte" also aims to inform and raise awareness among children and adolescents about the dangers of travel, their rights and whom to turn to in case of being returned.

Thousands of children and adolescents from the Northern Triangle of Central America decide to migrate for different reasons. Poverty and lack of opportunity is one of the main reasons why they travel to the United States. Of the total population of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, 60%, 63% and 32% live below the poverty line, respectively.

Another reason to migrate are the high rates of violence. Given the lack of presence of the state, organised crime groups have proliferated, and all manor of criminal activity persists. Violence and crime are central to children and families making the decision to migrate. Mauricio *, a 15-year-old teenager, was threatened three times by a local gang, "They told me that if I go to school they were going to kill me", so he had to leave his community with his family.

"Children and adolescents face many risks when migrating. They are victims of verbal and physical abuse, trafficking for the purpose of labor or sexual exploitation and other forms of violence. Girls and female adolescents are more vulnerable to sexual abuse during the trip," said Victoria Ward, Regional Director of Save the Children for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"With this campaign we seek to prevent forced and insecure migration of children and adolescents and promote the creation of cross-border protection mechanisms that support children who have returned through medical and psychological care, legal counseling and educational services," she says.

Through migrant protection programs, Save the Children has reached more than 139 thousand children and adolescents in Latin America.

Learn more about the campaign here: https://goo.gl/CDG3yV