A record 4.5 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean are on the move within and between countries, the UN said on Monday, warning that their plight was being made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said children in the region were increasingly uprooting to flee violence, poverty, and economic crisis, with the numbers more than doubling over the past four years.
“Migrant children are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations during their travels, including trafficking and exploitation,” the agency said in a statement.
The vast majority of the 4.5 million on the move are within their home countries — an increase of four percent on last year’s figures. But around 4 percent are crossing international borders, a jump of nearly 20 percent.
The pandemic has been an exacerbating factor in the surge of child migrants, as restrictions on movement used to contain the virus also restrict cross-border transport.
“It is unimaginably difficult to be uprooted from your home and thrust into an environment with painfully limited resources,” IOM Director-General António Vitorino said in a statement.
“Migrant children face specific protection risks throughout their journeys, at times so severe that they must choose between grievous harm and the hope of a future better than the one left behind.”
The IOM urged for a better response to ensure the rights of migrant children and vulnerable adults, calling on governments to ratify international agreements such as the Global Compact for Migration and to put measures in place to protect children.