TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — More must be done to protect unaccompanied children migrating north toward the United States, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday as he began a two-day fact-finding mission in Honduras on efforts to reduce violence in the world's deadliest country.
Ban met with President Juan Orlando Hernandez to discuss citizen security, drug trafficking and organized crime in the region. He complimented the government on initiatives to lower murder rates, but expressed concerns about violence against women and the killings of union leaders, reporters and human rights activists.
He also highlighted the plight of young Central American migrants.
"Although the number of returned children has decreased since the summer, there remains a need to address the situation of minors currently in transit or detention," Ban said. "In all cases, dignity and human rights must be protected."
Ban welcomed the Alliance for Prosperity Plan, which was launched in November by Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Known as the PAP for its initials in Spanish, it aims to stem migration to the U.S. and tackle unemployment, poverty and insecurity in the three nations that make up Central America's "northern triangle."
"The United Nations stands ready to support regional efforts to address security," Ban said.
Honduran Communications Minister Hilda Hernandez called U.N. backing for the PAP "vital."
She said officials would lobby the secretary-general about opening a local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, something Honduras asked for in 2013.
Honduras has suffered from the highest homicide rate of any nation at 85.5 killings per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with a global average of 6.7.
Ban is the third U.N. secretary-general to visit the country, after Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan. He travels next to neighboring El Salvador, where he will attend the 23rd anniversary of peace accords that ended that nation's civil war.