Migrant girls face rape, abuse and trafficking in Mexico, among other dangers, on their way to the United States
(NGO Plan International).- Migrant girls, especially those who travel unaccompanied, face serious dangers on their way to the United States such as rape, abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, a tragedy that non-governmental organizations seek to address in order to help these poor girls.
“My country is full of gangs and they are dangerous because they kill people. And even little boys are murderers there, ”says María, an 11-year-old Salvadoran girl who uses this fictitious name for security reasons and is cared for by the NGO Plan International.
Accompanied by her mother, the minor undertook a trip weeks ago from El Salvador to the Mexican city of Tapachula, an intermediate point before arriving at the northern border and, if her dreams come true, crossing into the United States.
The region has been experiencing a large wave of migration since 2018, when tens of thousands of people left Central America in caravans for the United States, in a northward flow that, despite attempts to control the problem, has not stopped.
Mexico deported more than 114,000 foreigners in 2021, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.
In addition, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) received a record 131,448 refugee applications in 2021. Of these petitioners, more than 51,000 are Haitians.
For Maria, the trip was even more complicated because she only did it with her parent.
With few words, the result of age and also of the difficult experience, the girl explained between tears that during the route they ran into danger and she, for example, was very afraid when walking along the train tracks for several days she heard noises that she did not know interpret.
The girl’s mother, Ana (not her real name), explained that they fled their country because of the gangs, who even took away the little heritage they had.
Without telling anyone, they left their country on foot and clandestinely.
“Our journey took us about 15 days, but the essential thing was to take care of my daughter and take her to a safe place,” the woman explained.
Still scarred by crime in her country, she recounted that in Mexico they fear the gangs.
After crossing the border with Guatemala, they arrived at a small Mexican community, and there, as a reflection of these dangers, they turned away from the main route because they saw people using “drugs”.
They recommended us “to go to the mountain and thank God we met a person who offered us a place to spend the night, and the next day we went to a shelter,” the woman said.
Like most fathers and mothers who undertake the route accompanied by their minors, the ultimate goal is to achieve a better life: “My dream is to see my daughter succeed because we are in a country (Mexico) that gives opportunities if one looks for them. . Because in our country you don’t have that for all the gangs.”
The indispensable support of NGOs
Mother and girl currently reside in Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas, while they seek to regularize their situation in Mexico and thus be able to continue on their way north.
In this city, thousands of migrants have previously reported living in precarious conditions after weeks and even months waiting for a response from the immigration authorities.
In this context, the help of NGOs —local and international— and even the support of churches and citizens is essential.
Ana explained that when they needed it most, the NGO Plan International gave them a kit and a card to buy supplies that allow them to cover their basic needs.
Karla González, the project coordinator for Plan International in Tapachula, Mexico, explained that girls and boys —accompanied or not by their families— arrive in this country from different nations in the region for different reasons, from violence to poverty. more extreme, as is the case of troubled Haiti.
“It is a forced migration and bordered by the existing needs in their nations. Due to structural violence and organized crime that they find, minors who come alone or with their families, “explained the activist.
Plan International works with a local partner that provides attention to individual cases to guarantee the well-being of children and their environment, serving about a thousand minors from 2021 to date.
According to González, many minors arrive in Tapachula with poor health after weeks of travel, with ailments ranging from dehydration to much more serious illnesses.
And in this municipality, saturated for months, they face a lack of doctors, medicines, and hospital supplies.
“Children are arriving with encephalitis or some type of disability that requires much more specialized and adequate attention, more comprehensive care. Because there is no accompaniment, the risks increase for girls, boys, adolescents, and women, since it is a group that is more vulnerable,” said Karla González.
Plan International, together with ChildFund International, EDUCO, and other local partners, is currently working on a program called Camino Protegido, which is being developed in Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico.
This plan seeks, in a comprehensive manner, to assist underage migrants, alone or accompanied by their families, through four lines of action: humanitarian assistance, training of actors at the community level, assistance in sexual and reproductive health, and information general on immigration procedures, among others.
The difficult journey is complicated, especially for unaccompanied minors.
According to data from the National Migration Institute (INM) collected by Plan International, between January and September 2021, the flow of foreign children and adolescents traveling alone in Mexico was 9,585.
They came especially from Guatemala (4,815), Honduras (3,480), El Salvador (1,033), and, to a lesser extent, from nations such as Haiti, Peru, and Ecuador (257).
“With the issue of girls and adolescents, the dangers have increased. They have narrated abuses, both sexual and psychological, as well as mistreatment. (…) Being irregular migrants, they go through lost crossings, along dangerous paths” and the chances of being victims of some type of crime are big, González said.
In the municipality of Puebla, the NGO Plan International, together with another local partner, Juconi, seeks to serve unaccompanied minors through “alternative care”.
“They have a model to provide accompaniment to unaccompanied children by inserting them into family dynamics,” Karla González remarked.