* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
From chains to freedom: why I decided to migrate to Europe
On February 19th, Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF) took the opportunity of the EU Public Event “My Destination is Unknown” to enquire EU leaders and institutions about the issue of the rights of migrant children.
Just 18 years old, Farah Abdi Abdullahi represents the hopes of 35 million migrants under 20 years of age: claim his rights as a child and benefit from specific measures of protection. The conference opened on Farah’s testimonial and his story as a Somalian refugee: “Children and youth will continue to migrate to Europe undocumented, and like I did, take the risk to die in the sea to reach Europe.”
In response, European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström stated that “in fact, there is no legal ways to come to Europe, and this has to change.” 80 representatives from EU institutions, governments, local authorities, professionals and specialized organisations discussed the phenomenon of children leaving home and children on the move starting from Farah’s testimony.
EU still fails to protect migrant children
The number of children leaving home to escape violence, disasters, poverty, or in search of a better life will increase worldwide in the next decades. They are all entitled to protection without any discrimination, but European public authorities still fail to comply with their obligations. At the EU Public Event “My Destination is Unknown”, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Nathalie Griesbeck and TDHIF alerted EU leaders and governments on our duty to protect them.
European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström addressed the conference by outlining how the European Commission has made important steps to ensure protection for children on the move. “It is forbidden to detain migrant children, and they must have access to the same protection and social services as any other child, this is the European Law,” she said. Nathalie Griesbeck, author of the European Parliament Resolution on the situation of unaccompanied minors in Europe concluded the conference: "Symbolic measures are not enough, real changes are necessary, as well as a proactive policy. Facing up these minor’s routes and their vulnerability, our duty is to do more. The European Union must do more and encourage Member States to do more. We also have to go against the unfortunate current trend that consists in treating these children as illegal immigrants; we must consider these children, whoever they are, and in any circumstances, with all the dignity they are entitled to. It’s our duty, as European countries, cradle of Human Rights.”
For TDHIF, all children on the move have the right to be protected. Their mobility increases their vulnerability and the risk of being exploited. But their mobility also represents a potential for their future life and personal development. With its international campaign “Destination Unknown”, TDHIF intends to promote the protection and best interest of migrant children.
“Children on the move are children first and foremost; we must protect them without discrimination, this is our duty, this is their rights (…). They are entitled to live their childhood and to build their life project wherever they are from, wherever they move, be they accompanied or not.’’ Ignacio Packer, Terre des Hommes Secretary General Ignacio Packer
Children on the move: who are they?
- They are children who left home. They are on the way or have reached a destination. They move within or between countries, accompanied or alone. Trafficked, unaccompanied, in street situation, kidnapped, forced to migration, refugees, asylum seekers, nomadic…across the world millions of children are on the move.
How many are they?
- Children leaving home will increase in the next decades. An estimated 214 million people worldwide are international migrants. Some 35 million under 20 years of age cross borders to migrate each year: they represent 15% of the total migrant population. They risk abuse, violence or exploitation. Their vulnerability becomes higher once they have left their family or original social environment.
What Tdh does?
- Raise awareness by showing concrete violations of children’s rights due to a lack of specific protection and services on the way to their destination.
- Operate through our programmes on the field to develop solutions and put in place protection measures for children from their place of origin to their final destination.
- Advocate by influencing policies, practices and legislations based on solutions that respond to the needs and interests of migrant children.