Amid humanitarian crisis, Honduran government runs marketing campaign

First Lady takes up the task of educating public on dangers of migration to U.S.

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Honduran officials want the public to know about the dangers of sending unaccompanied children and teenagers illegally to the U.S.

Amid a humanitarian crisis, the government has turned to using public funds for a marketing campaign called "Don't Risk Your Children's life." It is being aired on TV, radio, print media and on the web. Officials in El Salvador and Guatemala have launched similar efforts.

"These coyotes are people who don't have a conscience; their only desire is to enrich themselves at the expense of the lives of these little people," First lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez said in Spanish when she presented the campaign in July.

Honduran President Juan Hernandez took office in January. He wants the U.S. and Mexico to implement a similar anti-drug program as the one in Colombia, which he claims has pushed violence into his country.

Sor Valdette Willeman heads the government program for returning migrants.  In 2013, San Pedro Sula's children center received 4,001 deported children. In the first half of this year, the center has recieved 5,767 children.

The program promises them counseling, and for adults help with finding work and a stipend that should last them about a month. Migrants caught in Mexico have been arriving to San Pedro Sula in seven buses about three times a week. Willeman said flights packed with travelers expelled from the U.S. arrive daily.

Garcia de Hernandez and aid workers showed up to a San Pedro Sula airport July 14 to welcome a U.S. chartered flight with deportees. Garcia de Hernandez told reporters 13 girls, nine boys and 18 women had arrived.

"These are people with dreams, with illusions, and who come (back) in very difficult conditions, who are seeing that their dreams were not made a reality ... and the only thing they have are debts to pay," she said. 

As reporters watched the crowd, aid workers handed the kids balloons and candy. A woman whose eyes were swollen and red allowed her 6-year-old daughter to talk to a reporter.

The girl talked about freight trains, a forest at night, monkeys and snakes. The woman told the reporter that they had nothing left in Honduras. Despite all the dangers, she and her daughter would probably make the trip again.



Voices from Honduras: Government campaign (SPANISH)

Voices from Honduras: Government campaign (SPANISH)

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