Bishop talks about young migrants, violence, hardships in Honduras

August 19, 2014

SPRING — Gangs, abject poverty, violence and sundered families are all reasons young migrants are fleeing to the U.S. alone, revealing to the world a complex problem with no easy solutions, Bishop Roberto Camilleri, OFM, of the Diocese of Comayagua, Honduras told parishioners at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Spring.

Bishop Camilleri visited the parish as part of the Archdiocesan Missionary Cooperative Plan the weekend of July 19 to raise funds for the diocesan seminary. He also took time to explain to parishioners the extreme hardships of the Honduran mission field, where more than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty and 15 percent in misery. 

He pointed out that the problem of child migrants is not new. It dates back to at least 2005, when it prompted a regional conference of religious leaders to address protocols for the repatriation of minors. 

Since then, however, a huge surge has shocked the world and also put a spotlight on the Honduran government’s plan to handle the thousands of migrant children that have been and will be deported back to his country.

He noted that the U.S. is not the only country detaining migrants. Last year, 86,000 migrants were deported from Mexico, including nearly 10,000 minors. The numbers in the first six months of this year have already exceeded that, according to statistics from the Mexican government. 

In Honduras, hospices, or camps, where the children will stay once they are returned are being organized, including in his Diocese of Comayagua, though it is unclear what the long-term prospects for such youth will be once their immediate basic need are met, he said. 

“Many migrants are not deterred by being deported, many try again. Same thing with the children — if they come back who is going to ensure that they stay there or that they are reunited with any family that remains there?” he said.

Bishop Camilleri noted the economic situation of Honduras is dire, exacerbated by criminal activity. People decide against opening small businesses or abandon them entirely knowing they will face extortion from organized crime. 

Children are recruited by gang members as young as six years old, others are held at ransom. 

“Extortion is not just make believe. We have many people who have been killed because they could not pay what they were asked to pay.” 

Individuals who migrate do so for their safety and to provide for their families back home. Children who migrant often do so to be with their mothers and fathers, since 1/8 of the Honduran population lives abroad, mostly in the U.S.

Despite the conditions, the Honduran bishops have urged families not to put their children at grave risk of kidnapping and death by sending them to the border, he said. Catholic relief organizations are helping, but the problem is so big.

The question of what to do must be commended to the Lord, he said.

“This is only chapter one or chapter two of the whole story. There is a lot to be done.”