Posted: Jul 14, 2014 6:26 PM
Updated: Jul 14, 2014 10:10 PM
WESLACO - The United States is not the only nation facing an influx of unaccompanied children, United Nations officials said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the UN to learn more about the migration phenomenon.
The UN is tracking the increase in young children leaving their home countries alone. They say the United States is receiving the highest numbers of those children.
The UN in 2009 started tracking increasing numbers of unaccompanied children leaving Central America.
"That's when we started to notice an uptick for the number of asylum applications coming from individuals in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala ... (in) the U.S. and Canada," UN Senior Protection Officer Leslie Velez said.
Velez said the uptick doubled each year, starting in 2011.
The UN Refugee Office started conducting interviews with children in 2013 to find out why they were leaving their home countries.
That report was released in March, just as the current humanitarian crisis started.
"Since the time of our interviews the flow has gotten bigger, the children have gotten younger and now actually almost 40 percent of them are girls," Velez said.
Central American children are crossing borders seeking help, not just from the United States, Velez said.
Velez said Mexico is seeing a 60 percent increase of asylum claims from Central American children. Nicaragua has a 238 percent increase of asylum-seeking children.
"Not all the children are refugees, but children are leaving Central America for a number of reasons including poverty, family separations, family reunification and a lot of violence, which is what struck us the most," Velez said.
"We're talking about unimaginable horrors and violence. To see young girls explaining ... having witnessed rape or the dismemberment of their best friends, or boys having their family members shot in front of them. When this level of violence becomes so normal, it's cause for concern," Velez said.
Velez said the humanitarian crisis is an international matter. She said it's up to an entire region to fix, not just the United States.