ACERWC calls on all stakeholders to join hands to tackle problems faced by Migrant Children.
On the occasion of the 2016 International Migrants Day, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) calls on all stakeholders to collaborate and work together, including with children and their associations, to adequately address problems faced by migrant children through a child rights based approach.
“There are significant numbers of migrant children in Africa, and these children are susceptible to a number of violations of their rights including physical and psychological harm” stated the Chairperson of the Committee, Benyam Dawit Mezmur. “As these children are often dependent on human smugglers, or are unaccompanied or separated, they can easily be victims of traffickers and other perpetrators.” Mezmur added.
A number of children face extreme forms of abuse and deprivation on their journeys to destination countries. Even in the country of destination, migrant children may face marginalization and discrimination. Challenges to the rights to citizenship and identity, parents’ economic insecurity, social and cultural dislocation and barriers to accessing social services are some of factors that affect migrant children in countries of destination.
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), nearly 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced around the world in 2016. Approximately one half of African refugees are children.
Taking note of challenges faced by migrant children, the African Charter on the Right and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) has incorporated independent dedicated provision dealing with children on the move. Article 23(1) of the ACRWC imposes obligation on State Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered as refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by parents, legal guardians or close relatives, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of the rights set out in this Charter and other international human rights and humanitarian instruments to which the States are Parties. Article 23(4) provides that provisions dealing with refugee children mutatis mutandis apply to internally displaced children.
The Committee is aware of a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the migration crisis. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as adopted the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2016 which recognizes the obligations of Member States in protecting migrant children, with a particular focus on unaccompanied children and those separated from their families, regardless of their status, and giving primary consideration at all times to the best interests of the child, is one crucial example
Also, discussions between the European Union and a select number of African Union countries, with key priority given to Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Ethiopia and Senegal, in particular to increase aid and investment in exchange for co-operation for border control and facilitating the readmission of deported persons is another.
“These and other initiatives will need to take into account the child rights obligations that African countries have under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” Mezmur reminded. These obligations include recognizing children as “children first”; respecting children’s right to life, survival and development; preventing and addressing violence; conducting age determination processes that are child friendly; giving consideration to children’s views; providing adequate guardianship, education, health care, and social services; and ending immigration detention of children.
“In this regard, the Committee calls on all Member States, the African Union Commission, its Organs, and partners to make, in their various responses including decisions and cooperation agreements, the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration as an underlying obligation which all migration laws, policies, and services in countries of origin, transit, and destination comply with” Mr Mezmur concluded.