MEXICO CITY (AFP) – The top prosecutors of the United States, Mexico and Central America agreed to join forces Tuesday to go after criminal organisations involved in a surge of unaccompanied child migrants.
Meeting in Mexico City, US Attorney General Eric Holder, Mexico’s Jesus Murillo Karam and their counterparts from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador decided to create a high-level working group to tackle the problem.
Murillo Karam’s office said the goal is to draw up a strategy to protect children heading to the United States alone and efficiently pursue “the criminal organisations that benefit from committing various crimes linked to migration.”
The group will meet in the coming weeks to draw up an action plan.
US authorities say they caught more than 66,000 unaccompanied children at the border with Mexico between October 2013 and August this year, almost a twofold increase from the previous fiscal year.
But the number of children traveling alone – most from Central America – has dropped over the summer, from a peak of 10,622 in June to 3,141 last month.
Many children left their countries to flee gang violence, but others also say they headed north after hearing rumors that US authorities would not deport them.
The summer surge prompted US President Barack Obama’s administration to declare a humanitarian crisis, reviving a divisive debate over illegal immigration in the United States.
Mexican authorities, meanwhile, have launched a crackdown on illegal migration at its border with Guatemala, detaining large numbers of migrants trying to hitch rides on freight trains.