Uprooted: One Sixteen-Year-Old Boy’s Dangerous Journey
UNICEF's report Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children calls attention to the 50 million children who have been forced from their homes by war and poverty. The new report describes these children as among the most vulnerable people on earth — and warns that if governments do not act now, the number of victims is likely to grow.
For sixteen-year-old Alexis, the struggle represented by UNICEF’s report is painfully familiar. Alexis ran from crushing circumstances in his hometown of Omoa, Honduras. He headed north, hoping to find work to help pay for his siblings’ schooling and lift his family from poverty. Alexis’s beacon was the dream of someday finding a new life in the United States.
But he fell from a train and lost the bottom half of his right leg. “My trip, my dreams — everything I wanted to accomplish ended at that instant,“ says Alexis.
Alexis was deported back to Honduras, where he now lives with his mother and six siblings in a wood and corrugated iron shack on a slope in dense forest. He used to help his mother harvest corn and beans. But after his injury, he says, “There‘s nothing more I can do.“
In the first six months of 2016 alone, almost 26,000 unaccompanied children and close to 30,000 people travelling as families — most of these mothers with young children — were apprehended at the US border. The majority was from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries with among the world’s highest murder rates, where everyday life can pose grave dangers for children.
The children who migrate are seeking to get away from brutal gangs that target them or from poverty and exclusion that deprive them of education and hope. And many travel north to reunite with family members who set off to establish a foothold in a safer place.