Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís added his signature to a declaration expressing solidarity with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for the “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied child migrants traveling to the United States.
Solís signed the declaration during the 43rd meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Friday.
“I consider this one of the greatest tragedies of our region,” Solís said during his remarks with other SICA leaders in the beach resort town, adding that the situation required the utmost dedication from the system’s members.
The Declaration of Punta Cana signed by the region’s leaders reads:
“To express solidarity with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the face of the humanitarian crisis of the high flows of unaccompanied minors who migrate from these countries to the United States of America and agree that the topic of protecting children and adolescents demands greater resources to attend to the emergency.”
The declaration emphasizes the need to protect child migrant rights, prioritize the reunification of migrant families and create development opportunities in Central America to further children’s well-being. SICA leaders said that the process would require policies and strategies from both Northern Triangle countries and “destination” countries, presumably the United States.
The declaration also supports an initiative from Honduras to hold an international conference in Tegucigalpa on July 16 and 17 on the crisis. Organizers hope the event will serve as a call to the international community to join the effort to search for permanent solutions to the surge of unaccompanied minors.
U.S. officials say they have detained more than 52,000 unaccompanied children trying to enter the country from October 2013 to mid-June — more than twice the number detained from October 2012 through the end of 2013.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Guatemala last week, said Central American child migrants leave their countries because of poverty, violent crime and a failure of local legal systems.
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has blamed the problem on Washington’s failure to reform its immigration policy and provide a path to citizenship for 12 million immigrants already in the country.
Solís also called for greater financial and organizational transparency in SICA, continued action to secure the region’s security and democratic governance, and greater economic integration.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize assumed the SICA presidency pro tempore from Dominican President Danilo Medina.
Costa Rica was SICA president pro tempore in 2013 and hosted the meeting of regional leaders last June.
AFP contributed to this report.