Global agreements on migration and refugees should include commitments to protect children, UNICEF urges world leaders


Global agreements on migration and refugees should include commitments to protect children, UNICEF urges world leaders

Seven-year old Louay (sitting on suitcase), six-year old Ayman (right), six-year old Manena (left) and six-year old Wael (second left) play with a suitcase that they found in the garbage at the Skaramagas refugee camp, in the port area of northern Athens, Greece, Thursday 9 March 2017. Skaramangas is the largest camp in Greece, housing over 3,000 people, and is regarded as having the best administration and facilities. On a visit after a heavy rain, open sewage pooled in large puddles between container houses, and children played with homemade toys they had found in the garbage. More than 60,000 refugees are trapped in limbo in Greece after central European countries attempted to stop the influx of refugees reaching Europe by sea during 2015 and 2016.

As of March 2017, one year after the closure of the Western Balkans migration route, irregular movements within Europe continue, but refugee and migrant children, whether alone or with family members, are increasingly facing higher fences, stricter border control and regular push-backs. Most recent concerns have been raised around new legislation in Hungary, prescribing for detention of asylum-seeking children above 14 years of age for migration control purposes.

UNICEF continues supporting child protection services in 11 Child and Family Support Hubs (Blue Dots) in open reception facilities on the mainland and in urban sites in Athens, Thessaloniki and Ioannina. Since the beginning of 2017, 1,341 children (including 507 newly registered in February) benefitted from services on regular basis. 

Vulnerable refugee and migrant families and children continued benefitting from specialised psychological and mental health services in Athens and five open sites in Attica region (Elefsina, Elliniko, Agios Andreas/NeaMakri, Rafina and Elaionas). 

UNICEF’s ongoing partnership with the Office of the Greek Ombudsperson for Children on child rights monitoring continued in February, including organizing visits to Skaramangas

© UNICEF/Gilbertson VII

Seven-year old Louay, six-year old Ayman, six-year old Manena and six-year old Wael play with a suitcase that they found in the garbage at the Skaramagas refugee camp, in the port area of northern Athens, Greece.

Ahead of international meeting on migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, UNICEF releases blueprint for how to protect children on the move.

MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK/GENEVA/HONG KONG, 30 November 2017 –The rights, protection and wellbeing of uprooted children should be central commitments of global migration policies, UNICEF said today ahead of a meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on safe, regular and orderly migration.

The 4 to 6 December meeting is a major step toward drafting the Global Compact for Migration, a landmark intergovernmental agreement that will cover all dimensions of international migration. It is the moment when world leaders will begin to forge consensus on political and financial commitments in line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In advance of the meeting, UNICEF also released ‘Beyond Borders: How to make the global compacts on migration and refugees work for uprooted children’ ¬– a new report that highlights best practices for the care and protection of refugee and migrant children. The report includes practical examples of governments, civil society partners and host communities working to support and integrate uprooted children and their families.

“Global leaders and policymakers convening in Puerto Vallarta can work together to make migration safe for children,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes. “Our new report shows that it is possible, even in countries with stretched resources, to implement policies, services and investments that effectively support refugee and migrant children in their countries of origin, as they transit across borders and upon reaching their destinations.”

Refugee and migrant children are especially vulnerable to xenophobia, abuse, sexual exploitation, and lack of access to social services. It is imperative to have policies in place to protect them over the course of their journey, the report says.

The report presents successful case studies from around the world, including the implementation of minimum protection standards for refugee children in Germany, cross border child protection systems in West Africa, and finding alternatives to the detention of migrant children in Zambia. Other countries featured in the report include Afghanistan, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, South Sudan, Vietnam, Uganda and the U.S. Each of the initiatives can be replicated in different contexts and inform child-focused actions and policy change at national, regional and global levels to be agreed in the framework of the Compact.

The report also presents UNICEF’s six-point agenda for action as a basis for policies to protect refugee and migrant children and ensure their wellbeing:

1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence;
2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives;
3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status;
4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services;
5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants;
6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.