The context in Honduras has been equated to that of a conflict situation, because of its severe impact on the population. Children and youth are particularly affected, as they are forced into gang activities, drop out of school and face death threats if they refuse to join a gang.
Safety at risk
As a consequence, many children and youth have found safety in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a legal status that can be given to nationals of eligible countries. A TPS is designated to those who face armed or civil conflict upon return to their country, or where a country, in certain circumstances, is unable to handle the returns of its nationals adequately. Under the current administration, the TPS legislation faces termination for various nationalities, including Honduras. If Hondurans in the US lose their protection under the TPS, they face not only deportation, but poverty, violence and human rights violations upon return to their home country.
The potential termination of TPS for Hondurans can have a devastating impact on the 61,000 Hondurans who at present enjoy safety and international protection in the US. Over half of them have lived in the US for twenty years. Many have families and jobs. If deported, they lose all safety and instead may face human rights violations, a life in insecurity and threats to their lives. While the TPS has been extended to 5 July 2018, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) hopes that the Government of the United States will continue to extend TPS to Hondurans, and provide them with a safe haven from the violence they continue to escape. A final decision is expected before 4 May 2018.
The story of Sebastian and Mateo
Claudia and Delia are sisters who live with their families in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. They live close to each other and their sons, Sebastian and Mateo, grew up together. At first it was a quiet neighbourhood, but over time the presence and influence of a criminal gang expanded. The gang recruited children and teenagers. Sebastian, Mateo and their cousin refused to join the gang, and started receiving death threats. One day, their cousin was found killed.
“When their cousin was killed and the boys told us about the threats, we immediately decided to send them to a friend in Mexico,” says Delia.
Most of all, the mothers wanted their sons to go to the United States, where TPS can provide them with temporary safety from the gangs. Unfortunately, the plan did not go quite as they had hoped.
“One day we received a call from the authorities. Sebastian and Mateo were deported and waiting for us in a detention centre in Honduras.”
The boys had been arrested by Mexican immigration authorities and had been returned to a detention centre for unaccompanied minors. The case was referred to NRC for assistance, and together with the boys’ parents, staff identified a location where the boys could stay. Going back to Tegucigalpa was not an option. Today, the parents alternate to travel the distance and visit them.
Being internally displaced, the boys have not been able to go back to school and continue their education. Their opportunities are few and life has become difficult. Although they know it’s dangerous, Sebastian and Mateo are now considering to make the journey again, in search of safety, protection and an opportunity to build their lives.
Children and youth are among the most vulnerable
Every two hours a Honduran child was deported during 2017. Despite the dangers of the journey and the possibility of deportation, the continuous flow of refugee and migrant children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala toward the US has not slowed down.
Research conducted by NRC in Honduras last year has shown that of those who have received NRC assistance 62 per cent are men and the majority are between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. Most stated death threats as the main reason for their displacement, followed by survival of an attempted assassination and extortion.
“We have identified that people migrate because they cannot find the protection here that they need”, says Elsy Aleman who works at the Migration Care Centre supported by NRC. “Often, these people had to leave their homes in order to escape threats. They are victims of what is happening in this country”.
NRC provides various types of assistance ranging from legal assistance and information, food, rental assistance and lodging, so that youth and families have a safe place to stay. We can also provide children and youth with access to safe education opportunities and vocational trainings.
However, these are short term solutions in a country that requires a legal framework to protect those who have been forcibly displaced and victim of human rights violations. We continue to support the Honduran government at local and national level to help improve the rights and lives of the affected populations, like Claudia and Delia’s families.