Maintaining family communications

Every year, thousands of children flee conflict and poverty in the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to seek safety and reunite with family in the United States.

The migration routes through Mexico often leave them vulnerable to violence and exploitation by gangs and traffickers.

Manuel was living with his mother in Honduras when he was threatened by a gang. He could either join or die. He left his hometown behind with just a backpack containing a few personal items, including contact information for his mother.

While traveling on La Bestia, a dangerous train often used by migrants to transit Mexico, he was robbed and lost all the information he had for maintaining communication with his family.

Upon arrival in the United States, he was detained at a shelter for unaccompanied children. While all the minors were given the opportunity to call home and let their loved ones know their whereabouts and wellbeing, Manuel was unable to do so, until the Red Cross stepped in.

Through the Restoring Family Links program, volunteers with the American Red Cross sat down with Manuel and gathered information about his mother. He drew a map identifying his home in relation to the local school and Red Cross. By using this map, the Honduran Red Cross was able to find his mother who provided her contact information as well as the information for Manuel’s aunt in the United States.

All migrants in the region face problems concerning safety and communication. The difficulties faced along migratory routes in tandem with the detention and deportation practices of nations in the region often put migrants’ lives in danger and limit the means by which they can communicate with family.

The Red Cross is dedicated to meeting the humanitarian needs of these individuals. Along the US-Mexico border, the Mexico Red Cross works to meet the basic medical needs of returned migrants, checking blood pressure and glucose levels, providing first aid, and treating dehydration. Throughout Mexico, the Red Cross uses mobile clinics to offer medical treatment and phone calls for those in transit.

Through partnerships with other humanitarian organizations aiding migrants, the American Red Cross is also at work along the US-Mexico border and along migratory routes in the US to help migrants maintain family communication and provide basic first aid.

Roberto benefited from this service after he was separated from the group he was traveling with. He wandered the desert for four days until he stumbled upon a camp where he could rest, receive basic medical treatment and contact his family.

His experience in the desert had such a terrifying effect that he was unsure of whether to continue his journey or to turn himself in and return to his family in Mexico. Through the phone service, he was able to call his family to ask their advice on the situation. Manuel expressed his gratitude for this service. “Being able to talk with my family made this difficult decision much easier. I feel comforted knowing the Red Cross can help me.”

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Maintaining family communications