War, gang violence, natural disaster, famine, domestic abuse. All of these are reasons for one to become a refugee. And they are reasons why more and more children are fleeing their home country alone.
According to UNICEF, between 2015 and 2016, around 200,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the United States. They were fleeing from 80 different countries. In addition to these, more than 100,000 children were stopped at the US-Mexican border.
For contrast, in 2010 there were just 66,000 children making the trip to the United States. What’s causing this five-fold increase? War, gang violence, natural disaster…
The problem doesn’t stop here. These children are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society, making them an easy target for smugglers, human traffickers, and others who make money on their innocence.
“Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution,” says a UNICEF representative. “It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”
Another representative tell us, “The sexual exploitation of girls and boys is big business. Because the difference with this and other crimes and exploitation is that a girl who is exploited sexually is seen as merchandise that can be used again and again.”
In fact, three of every five child migrants coming north from Central America or the Caribbean fall victim to human trafficking. These smugglers use rape, violence, and extortion as a form of payment for helping them to cross borders before selling them upon reaching the country of origin.
You can read more facts and stories of unaccompanied children here.