Migrant or refugee children receive insufficient protection

by Terre des hommes | Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland
Thursday, 30 January 2014 07:51 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Migrant or refugee children receive insufficient protection

One person in eight is a migrant on this planet. In 2013 the number of migrants totalled almost 214 million (source:ILO). Among these migrants, millions of children under the age of eighteen migrate within their own country or to a new country, sometimes accompanied by their parents, sometimes alone. Mobility is a right and children should receive protection throughout their journey. Terre des hommes has taken advantage of the World Migrant and Refugee Day to remind everyone of the deplorable situation regarding protection systems for children involved in mobility.

There are many reasons why these children have to migrate: they need to leave home to look for work in a city; they are escaping from a country at war or a repressive political regime; or perhaps they need to get away from customs such as forced marriage. On the road to migration, children are exposed to considerable risks. For a certain number of children, migration may prove to be a positive experience. For the more vulnerable ones, however, and, in particular, in countries where there is a lack of legal protection, migrant children are ideal candidates for forced labour and exploitation. Other child migrants, especially those travelling without identity papers, are potential victims of child trafficking.

Their rights are trampled on

Although Article 2.1 of the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights states that “partner states undertake to respect the rights which are laid out in the present Convention and guarantee that such rights will apply to all children coming under their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion of the child or their parents or legal representatives, national, ethnic or social origin, level of wealth, incapacity, birth or any other situation” , many states have in fact failed to implement protection systems for child migrants.

Although these children are immigrants or refugees, their basic rights are ignored. Deprived of their freedom, exploited or victims of child trafficking they do not have access to basic services. Some of them receive no care, are unable to attend school, work under dangerous conditions and do not, of course, have access to legal protection in order to defend themselves.

Farah’s story

Farah, a young migrant, left his country of birth at the age of three. Today he tells us of the suffering he endured and launches an appeal for children’s rights to be respected, regardless of the child’s status.

Watch the video of Farah (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH6-rKKBtw)

Campaign “Destination Unknown”

The Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF) has initiated a large awareness raising campaign regarding the protection of migrant children. Together with the partner organisations, the federation aims to improve protection mechanisms for migrant children and to raise public awareness regarding the risks these children are exposed to.
“Immigration is an important part of our society. According to the Children’s Rights a migrant child remains, above all, a child,” Ignacio Packer, Secretary General of TDHIF reminds us.

On 4 November 2013 in Bern, Terre des hommes Lausanne and terre des hommes schweiz organised a conference on child migrant protection in Switzerland and throughout the world (http://www.tdh.ch/en/news/children-migrants-protection-exploitation-trafficking-bern). On 19 February in Brussels, TDHIF is taking part in and co-hosting a public conference on the terms of the European Union’s commitment towards migrant children. More information can be found here (http://destination-unknown.org/event/eu-public-conference-my-destination-is-unknown/).