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UN refugee agency applauds President Obama's response to growing number of child migrants

Speeches and statements

UN refugee agency applauds President Obama's response to growing number of child migrants

20 June 2014

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2014 (UNHCR) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed President Obama’s announcement of a high-level U.S. Government response to the increase in unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the United States. 

The number of children in the region setting out alone in search of safety has grown dramatically in recent years. The U.S. Government estimates that up to 66,000 unaccompanied children will arrive by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014, and upwards of 127,000 during FY 2015. More than 90% of these children are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and a growing number of them are girls and young children.

“Robust, coordinated action to protect these vulnerable children is consistent both with the U.S. global leadership in human rights and with the American people’s deep and long-standing sense of compassion and welcome," said Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR’s Regional Representative in the United States. 

“This is a regional humanitarian crisis that calls for a regional humanitarian response.  UNHCR stands ready to support the U.S. and other governments to ensure that children fleeing violence receive the care and protection they need.”

UNHCR’s recent report Children on the Run, which was released in March, showed that 58% of unaccompanied children interviewed by UNHCR left their homes and fled to the U.S. due to violence. The report makes a number of recommendations, including increasing access by the children to legal representation so that their best interests and protection needs can be safeguarded."

In this report, one fifteen-year-old girl told of refusing to go out with a gang member and then fleeing for her life after seeing her schoolmate raped and killed. Her story was echoed by other children who were interviewed, all of whom spoke of their hope for a normal life and future without violence.