Three-year-old Monica Dabdoub makes the sign of the cross as she attends Mass with her mother at the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., April 1. The Mass was celebrated by a group of visiting U.S. bishops during on a two-day tour of the border region. The bishops used their visit to call attention to the plight of migrants and to appeal for changes in U.S. immigration policy. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
Three-year-old Monica Dabdoub makes the sign of the cross as she attends Mass with her mother at the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., April 1. The Mass was celebrated by a group of visiting U.S. bishops during on a two-day tour of the border region. The bishops used their visit to call attention to the plight of migrants and to appeal for changes in U.S. immigration policy. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea or on trains through Mexico or desert paths crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, a huge increase in the number of children traveling alone to flee war or violence calls for urgent action by the international community, a Vatican official said.

“These children are exposed to sexual violations, to starvation, to mutilations when they fall (off trains or trucks) and even to the loss of life when their boats sink or they get lost in the desert,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican observer at U.N. agencies in Geneva, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The growing phenomenon of unaccompanied minors crossing international borders calls for “a new form of protection,” the archbishop told the council June 13.

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“Forced displacement of people caused by current wars and the multiplication of violent conflicts in several regions of the globe is pushing hundreds of thousands of people to risk their lives in the search for survival,” the archbishop said.

Among those fleeing violence, he said, are “thousands of children who leave their homes and become asylum seekers. In 2011, 12,225 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in Europe,” coming from “all the trouble spots of the Middle East and Africa.”

“The explosion of child migrants traveling alone in the hope of crossing the border into the United States” is also a problem, he said. Archbishop Tomasi told the council that 38,883 children traveling alone were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border in 2013 and that the number could be well over 70,000 this year. U.S.-based human service agencies estimate the number will top 90,000. The six-month total was more than 48,000.

 

This handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shows unaccompanied migrant children at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS photo/ handout, Reuters)
This handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shows unaccompanied migrant children at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS photo/ handout, Reuters)

In early May, Mark Greenberg, the acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended during the 2011 fiscal year was 6,560. “Reasons for this increase are complex, but a key factor is the high level of violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the countries of origin for most” of the unaccompanied minors, he said.

Archbishop Tomasi said many of the teens travel “to exercise their natural right” to be with their parents, who have already immigrated, while others would rather take risks to reach a destination they dreamed of “rather than dying of hunger or being killed by gangs and organized crime at home.”

While telling the U.N. Human Rights Council that immigration generally is good for countries and their economies — once the migrants are settled and working — the risks unaccompanied minors face are huge, the archbishop said.

“Children on the move constitute a humanitarian emergency that calls for immediate remedies,” he said, including programs to reduce the extreme poverty and violence “at the source of the children’s exodus.”

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service, serving since 1920 as a news agency specializing in reporting religion, is the primary source of national and world news that appears in the U.S. Catholic press. It is also a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Whoever writes these articles and whoever falls for this “it is for the children” rallying cry are all hypocrites who like to crap on others by bullying with guilt. I am tired of the “you aren’t very Christian” if you don’t let everyone in the world leech off of you.

  2. This is a manufactured crisis. These children’s parents are sending them to establish residency so they can follow. Turn them back at the border and send them back to their home countries.

  3. We all know it’s a terrible mess in the Muslim countries, Shia hate Sunni and vise versa, the ghastly things that Islam does to each other is reprehensible. But what major wars are going on in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico? What’s going on at the Texas/Mexico border is major child abuse. In the last year almost 50,000 kids and some as young as three and four years old have been brought over by coyotes and smugglers. What kind of parent would turn over their baby to one of these guys? What are the responsibilities of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico? Nothing? The U.S. cannot assimilate so many people at once pouring in. Some think that this is a diversion created by some of the drug cartels because when the border patrol are changing diapers, and babysitting, the narcotics are flowing over. This would be the perfect time for Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to come back to Arizona, say Mass, not through a fence, then take 10 or 20 thousand of these children back to Boston. There’s more rich folk there than in Southern Arizona.

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