Statement by Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Global Child Forum

Source :

Auteur : Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

« Stockholm, 26 November 2015

Your Majesty,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to such a dynamic and influential audience.

I’ve been asked to focus my remarks today on elements that can help our societies manage and solve the migratory movements that have escalated so sharply in the past year, around the world.

Two months ago, the international community reacted with shock and outrage at the death of a 3-year old Syrian boy who had drowned trying to cross the Aegean sea. Since then, at least 77 more children have died in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe. Tens of thousands of children have suffered violence and brutality on their long journey northwards through Central America. Uncounted more have died in the Indian Ocean, fleeing persecution and deprivation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. All told, some 30 million children are on the move today, in situations that are desperately precarious.

International law is clear : all children need and deserve protection. Whether or not they have visas – and whatever the motivations that compelled them to take flight – the rights laid out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be guaranteed for migrant children, just as they are for all children, under the jurisdiction of every State. Their best interest must be the primary focus of all relevant policies, including policies on immigration.

We see them – all of us have seen them – in the streets of our cities. Some have braved the enormous danger of the voyage to Europe on their own. Others journey with their families. The perils they experience include the danger of separation from their parents ; the risk of falling into the hands of child traffickers ; and severe threats to their lives and health.

Some of you may have grown accustomed to the sight of young boys and girls sleeping in disused métro stations, under advertisements for luxury travel ; or hiding under highways, as expensive cars roar above their heads ; fending for themselves as best they can in squalid, muddy camps, in the midst of our carefully trimmed landscapes.

It is hard to tell what is more intolerable. The suffering and deprivation these children endured in their countries of origin. The fear, and often vicious violence, they brave on their journey. Or the lack of humanity that is so frequently, and shockingly, displayed by us, their host societies.

I am shaken by the reports I read, and photos that many of us have seen, regarding treatment of migrant children at the borders of states. In many countries, children are being subjected to high levels of violence by border guards – and I am not only speaking of the Balkans States. Migrant children are also being detained, in intolerable conditions, for long periods, although we know that the impact of immigration detention on children is often extremely severe. The detention of children because of their migration status is a violation of child rights.

Irregular migrant children may also be deprived, by law, of their rights to fundamental public services. Their — often justified — fear of detection and deportation also creates barriers to their access to vital services. As a result, across Europe, and in other parts of the world, many children are going unvaccinated, their mental trauma is going untreated, and many child victims of sexual violence are not being cared for in any way.

I am sure that none of you wishes to see your children grow up knowing that just down the road, other children are sleeping, sick and unprotected, in parks, just because they were born in another country.

States should make clear in their legislation but also, most importantly, in their policy and practice that the principle of the child’s best interests takes priority over migration status or other administrative considerations.

I am also concerned about what happens to migrant and refugee children once they reach 18. From one day to the next, they may be thrown out of government shelters, refused education and training, and deported to countries where they may face danger. I ask you, are these actions really principled, and are they necessary ? There should be transitional measures to ensure continuing protection and support.

In the course of today’s programme, you will be discussing many vital topics, and before I leave you, I want to pick up on a few points regarding corporate responsibility for human rights. The best solution to forced migration is to resolve the human rights violations that compel so many families to leave their homes. All of us can help to support peace and sustainable development, to ensure that children can grow up with hope and in dignity, where they live – in societies that are respectful of their rights. All of us – in business, in government, and as global citizens – can raise our voices to send a positive and principled message on migrants’ rights.

Thank you. »

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