The world is reacting to an emerging situation in the USA where the protection of children is once more in the spotlight. Specifically migrant and refugee children who are among those most at risk, who face real danger everyday and who are most often forgotten or ignored by our governments and agencies
In the month when we have put our focus at Friends-International firmly on the migrant children we work with, the many risks they face and how we address those, a timely reminder comes from our Executive Director Sebastien Marot that this is an issue with a global impact that needs a joined-up response, with the needs and rights of those children at its core…
“I am sure that you will have, as we have, reacted with shock and disbelief at the sounds of distressed children torn from their families which have emerged on recent recordings from the USA. As the cries of these children separated from their migrant parents resonate heavily, it is clearer than ever that we should not, in fact we cannot, sit idle in the face of these children’s plight.
Everywhere, everyday, children are migrating with their parents, sometimes even alone, to escape the terrors of war, violence, natural disasters, hunger and come with the hope to eventually live a life where they can be safe, laugh, play and go to school, just like other children.
At Friends we have for over 24 years now advocated tirelessly for children to grow in a family environment. And we are delighted that in many fields, this has now become the accepted norm: children should not grow up in orphanages and other “shelters”, which is often a thinly veiled euphemism for what is really a detention facility!
However, this is still often not the case for migrant children or the children of migrating parents: they are too often either left alone by their families or lost in the turbulence of migration. Authorities arrest them, incarcerate them, often for a long period of time, and deport them in conditions which are rough, traumatizing and too often degrading. Predatory adults are out there also, hunting them for their own profit, for labor, for sexual abuse…
UNICEF recently highlighted* a five-fold increase in the number of refugee and migrant children since 2010, and that almost a third of those were victims of trafficking.
Children at the borders are at particularly high risk and every day in Europe, in Asia, in America, in Africa they leave their homes, they suffer and many die.
We also know the growing resentment that we build in these children and populations when we mistreat their children. They will grow up with fear and mistrust towards the ones who rejected them. We plant the seeds for revenge, then we reap what we sow. We create an unsafe world for everyone, including our own children.
For decades now, our teams of #everydayheroes at Friends-International have protected migrant and refugee children, supported them to return home and build a safe future, one that allows them to be children again, yet also to grow up safely within a family environment and go on to become self-reliant adults within society.
But we know that alone there is little we can achieve – it is only together we can really make a difference – we know that everyone needs to be involved.
This is why we need to continue to build partnerships with many other organizations to be able to protect these children across the entire world, like the project at the Thai-Cambodian border where we work with two other organizations to run, together, services that protect the children before they leave and when they return. Only with such partnerships will we be able to make a real difference.
This is why we need to push Governments to look beyond prejudices fueled by the fears of their constituents and support them to build bridges, talk to each other and create policies that protect children in the spirit of the Rights of the Child. Only in meaningful collaboration with Governments, showing and sharing the best practices which work to protect children, can we change the way these children are treated and ensure they will thrive in nurturing environments.
This is why we need everyone to be involved to say that mistreating children is never a solution, only a testament to failings in our civilization, and show that we, the people, want all children to grow safely. Only with the collective help of the concerned citizens around the world can we have the voice and the resources to make this happen.
Together we can make a real change for migrant children, a change for the better. And the time to act is now. Say NO to abuse, especially the institutional abuse of children by the Governments that represent you and who purport to act in your name.
Join us to build a future for all children, join us in the ChildSafe Movement which protects all children, especially the most vulnerable ones such as migrant children, from all forms of abuse.
*Report ‘Children Uprooted’, UNICEF 2017