Washington, DC –President Trump’s directive for the Department of Homeland Security to start sending asylum seekers in the United States to Honduras by January puts the lives of thousands at great risk, including children. A report issued today by Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) notes that Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world due to gang and narco-trafficker violence from which the Honduran government cannot or will not protect its citizens. KIND visited Honduras this summer and found that violence by gangs and other organized criminal groups has reached epidemic levels; the primary victims are children and youth.
“The dangers of returning vulnerable migrants, including children, to Honduras cannot be underestimated,” said KIND President Wendy Young as the Administration’s Asylum Cooperative Agreement signed by Honduras in September is poised for implementation. “KIND has seen first-hand the conditions that cause children from Honduras to flee for their lives. It is unconscionable to send children to violence and harm’s way without a full and fair chance to present their claims to protection.”
As described in KIND’s new report, “Everyday Life is Fear”: Violence Against Children and Youth in Honduras, marginalized neighborhoods of Honduran cities, and increasingly smaller towns and rural areas, are dominated by gangs. These criminal groups sell and traffic drugs and arms and engage in human trafficking. They use violence to control the residents in the neighborhoods where they operate. They forcibly recruit children and youth to join the gang or to perform menial labor for the gang, threatening to kill them and their families if they refuse. They also extort families and threaten them with violence or death if they are not able to pay.
In addition, today’s report notes that gangs target girls and young women for sexual and gender-based violence, including girls as young as 12 years old. In some cases, girls are forced to become the “girlfriend” of a gang member; in others, they are kidnapped and raped.
KIND found that schools are one of the primary sites of gang control and violence in Honduras, preventing many children and youth from safely going to school. Additionally, gangs forbid residents of the neighborhoods they control from talking to the police. Those who report crimes face violent reprisal or death. In some cases, police are actively involved in gang activities.
The weak child protection system is unable to keep children safe, and the witness protection program fails child victims who come forward to seek justice.
“Honduras is failing to protect its own children; how will it possibly protect children from other countries,” Young said. “The United States should not put children in such an unnecessarily dangerous situation when other options are not only available, but are working here in the United States.”
For more information about today’s report, please contact Megan McKenna, email@example.com, 202-631-9990.