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  • Catarina Alonzo (C), mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, at home in the village of Yalambojoch, Guatemala, December 2018.

    Catarina Alonzo (C), mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, at home in the village of Yalambojoch, Guatemala, December 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 January 2019

Jakelin Caal and Felipe Gomez died while in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has voiced “doubts” regarding the deaths of two migrant Guatemalan children in U.S. custody, and is demanding the prevention of further tragedies.

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During a press conference in Switzerland on Friday, the office’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said both were complicated cases and questioned whether medical attention was appropriate and delivered on time.

The deaths “reveal the terrible conditions migrants suffer, facing difficulties both in the escape from their countries of origin as in the limbo they’re during transit, without known what will happen to them," Shamdasani said.

Jakelin Caal, 7, died of dehydration on Dec. 8, just 48 hours after being detained by immigration authorities along with her father. Days later Felipe Gomez, 8, died of a common fever.

Guatemala said it regretted the deaths, but issued no formal protest note to the U.S. government.

Instead, the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry asked families not to take children with them if they migrate illegally.

It also warned parents against “believing the tricks of people with bad intentions,” in reference to so-called 'coyotes' who charge thousands of dollars to get people across the border. Many instruct parents to bring children with them to avoid immediate deportation.

President Jimmy Morales is a close ally of the United States in Central America and demanding measures for the protection of Guatemalan migrants could put those relations at risk.

On August 16, 2018, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the United States to end the policy of separating immigrant families at the border.

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