States must work towards better safeguards for unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents

Today, the UN Human Rights Council held a panel discussion on unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights. On this occasion, Defence for Children International joined a statement by ECPAT International to recall that unaccompanied migrant children are particularly at risk of being exposed to trafficking and exploitation, and shared key recommendations in this regard.

Please find the statement surrender

Thank you Mr. President,

We wish to congratulate the Council for convening this very important panel discussion and thank all the panellists for their very insightful presentations.

As studies have shown, around 15% of the 244 million worldwide are under the age of 20, and when it comes to refugees and internally displaced persons, this number increases to almost 50%.[1]

Children on the move, in particular those who are unaccompanied or separated from their family and often crossing borders without legal documents, are particularly vulnerable to coercion, deception, violence and trafficking. Many of them become easy targets for traffickers and are exposed to some of the worst violations of their human rights, in particular through labour and sexual exploitation.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers an important mechanism to create ‘a world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence’. Its goals (SDGs) target poverty, hunger, decent work and economic growth, amongst others. This is important when we recognize the positive contributions of all migrants, including boys and girls, for sustainable development and that there can be many benefits stemming from child mobility, such as improved educational and economic opportunities, social empowerment or greater security.

In light of the many risks and challenges that millions of children on the move face during their migratory journey, and in order to promote greater coherence between migration and child protection policies and practices we wish to make the following recommendations for States

Take proactive measures to raise awareness on the dangers of irregular and unsafe migration and its close connexion with child trafficking, and establish helplines that provide children and their families with counselling and information on safe and regular migration opportunities;

Strengthen national child protection systems in sending, transit and receiving countries to effectively and equally address the needs and protect the rights of all children, independently of their country of origin;

Take adequate measures to protect children from criminalization and detention because of their irregular status or involvement in illegal activities, including prostitution, and support in this regard the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty that aims to present effective and adequate alternatives to the detention of migrant children;

Enhance research on children on the move to effectively capture disaggregated data on the specific vulnerabilities of boys and girls, including to sexual exploitation

Download the statement in PDF format



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