Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking YouthThere are a multitude of reasons young people from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and the Northern Triangle flee from their homes to a foreign land. Some are escaping persecution, others' homes were destroyed in war, some are resisting the systemic gang culture, and others are desperate to escape abject poverty and support their family. They arrive as asylum-seekers hoping for the chance to receive refugee status and rebuild their lives. Many are under the age of 18; among these are youth that travel without family for months or even years.
In fact, since 2015, more than 200,000 unaccompanied and separated children and youth have applied for asylum in Europe -- often after perilous journeys across continents and in forced labor. In the U.S., upwards of 50,000 unaccompanied youth arrive at the southern border each year. While some have traveled from the Northern Triangle, others come from across the ocean to a country in S. America and then make a very dangerous and long trek to cross the Mexico border. For those who make it to their desired destination country, they often then wait years for decisions on their asylum claims.
In many cases, these youth have been without family for months or even years; others are separated from family during their travels or at the U.S. border. They frequently live in squalid conditions, are preyed upon by traffickers, smugglers and radical extremists, and exist in a state of limbo – not knowing how or when they will be welcomed into a caring, safe community or reunited with family.
This is an opportunity – and, more so, a call – for the Church to show the love that Christ shows us through both actions and words.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14)
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