Unaccompanied Minors Returned Home to El Salvador Meet in the Capital, San Salvador
Increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors are taking the irregular
migration path, many under pressure from families to find work and
send money home. Most of the minors from Central America, aged
between 10 and 17, are making the journey alone to join one or both
parents who are already in the United States. All unaccompanied
minors, regardless of their age are particularly vulnerable to
abuse and exploitation; their basic rights aren't always observed.
For most, the migration experience is a traumatizing one. And for
those that do not reach their final destination, it is also a
The IOM-managed programme "Return and Reintegration of
Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Adolescents" funded by the US
State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
(PRM), brought together youngsters from all over the country who
had returned to El Salvador for a first meeting.
For some it was pure joy, for others an experience fraught with
anxiety. But in all cases, the smiles marked the two encounters in
the capital San Salvador.
"I wanted to know how others managed the trip, and if they were
scared," said a 9-year-old, as his curious eyes seemed to open even
The children, aged between 5 and 17, migrated without adult
supervision and irregularly to the United States and were returned
to El Salvador.
In that first meeting, the participants listened to a lecture on
the risks of irregular migration given by IOM's Programme
Coordinator, Cecilia Ramírez.
"It was very rewarding for all of the IOM staff to meet the
children and to hear their stories, needs and concerns," said
The youngsters shared their personal experiences on their
attempt to cross into the United States, while their parents
expressed their joy at having their children back home.
After the lecture, they watched movies and did some shopping,
thanks to a bonus provided by the programnme.
At the second meeting, although they had already met, the
participants were nervous because they were going to receive a
thorough medical examination; in many cases it was the first time
that the patients had received blood and vision tests.
"I have had a headache for a long time, and I also have stomach
aches. I think it is because of the seven days I walked through the
desert," expressed a young girl.
And her own diagnosis wasn't quite off; the medical exams showed
that she had intestinal parasites and anemia, but that she didn't
After the check-up, the participants received the medicines
needed and those who required glasses were fitted with the frames
of their choice.
To prepare the youngsters for a better future in their country,
the programme provides support to attend English language training
and computer classes in locations close to their communities.
The programme is supported by the Salvadoran Institute for the
Holistic Development of Children (ISNA, by its acronym in Spanish),
the General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners, and the
Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education.
"In El Salvador this IOM programme has assisted 35 minors so
far, but we are carrying out field visits to determine if there are
other returned children or adolescents in need of assistance,"
According to official figures at the end of July 2010, a total
of 451 minors had been returned to El Salvador by land and another
120 by air.
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