Obama assigns FEMA to address growing number of immigrant 'unaccompanied minors'
Barack Obama (AFP)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday established an interagency group to handle the large and growing influx of children streaming into the United States illegally and without parents or relatives accompanying them.

In a memo that describes an "urgent humanitarian situation," Obama has put the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of coordinating humanitarian relief to the children, including housing, care, medical treatment and transportation.

The Obama administration estimates that around 60,000 "unaccompanied minors" - children under 18 years - will enter the United States illegally this year. It projects that number to grow to nearly 130,000 next year.

As recently as 2011, the number was only around 6,000.

Many of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as Mexico, and are fleeing either domestic abuse or violent gangs that increasingly prey upon children as young as 12.

In making the journey to the United States, they often are trying to reunite with a parent or other relative.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Jim Loney)