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US-Mexico border crisis: we must protect all children


US-Mexico border crisis: we must protect all children

As the outcry over the treatment of migrants at the US-Mexico border intensifies, Lumos is increasingly concerned for the welfare of the hundreds of unaccompanied children in detention. It’s been reported that increasing numbers of children who have become separated from their families are making the perilous journey alone. A lack of transparency over the border detention facilities adds to the urgency of the situation – children must be protected and cared for in appropriate facilities and given the health and social care support they desperately need.

Most children and families arriving at the border are seeking refuge from violence, political unrest and extreme poverty in the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Unaccompanied children have already experienced significant trauma, having become separated from their families en route to the border, or having had to leave them behind in their countries of origin; they now face the additional trauma of being held in detention centres with no idea of what is going to happen to them. Coupled with the institutional characteristics of detention centres, this can result in toxic stress. Additionally, the long-term impact of this trauma on their health and development can be overwhelmingly adverse.

Lumos works to end the institutionalisation of children globally and has extensive experience in diverse global contexts of facilitating family reunification and supporting children to overcome the trauma caused by separation and institutionalisation.

Global Director of Evidence, Advocacy & Campaigns Chris Cuthbert, said:

“The priority must be protecting these unaccompanied and highly vulnerable children. In the short-term, placing children in institutions presents immediate risks to their health and leaves them at risk of all forms of abuse and neglect. The longer a child spends in an institution, the greater the risk the child will suffer physical impacts, have poor social and psychological development, and exhibit behavioural, physical and mental health problems that can last a lifetime.”

In 2018, around 4,000 migrant children were forcibly separated from their families at the US border and placed in institutional care while adults were detained or deported. Over the following two years Lumos worked with a range of partners in the US and Guatemala to help reunify and strengthen many affected families, providing access to medical care, therapy, education and other services.

Experts at Lumos continue to protect children by reforming care systems across the world, uniting children with families wherever possible. From babies in institutions in Kenya, to refugee children in detention centres in Europe, to children trafficked into orphanages in Haiti; our research and experience demonstrates children need family care and protection to thrive and reach their full potential in life.

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