18 December 2008
Over the last number of years, the international community has paid much attention to the economic dimension of migration and to the links between migration and development, but it has paid much less attention to other aspects of migration, such as the rights of the migrant workers and members of their families.
Today, as we celebrate International Migrants Day 2008, we would like to draw your attention to the many children whose lives are affected by migration.
We are particularly concerned at the situation of unaccompanied children, who migrate on their own separated from both parents and other adults taking care of them. These children face greater risks of becoming victims of trafficking and various forms of exploitation, including sexual and economic exploitation. They are often discriminated against and denied access to food, shelter, housing, health services and education. Unaccompanied migrant girls are at particular risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and are often exploited in domestic work in servitude like situations. In many countries, unaccompanied migrant children are routinely denied entry to or detained by border or immigration officials without the special care required by their young age.
Children of migrants who move with their parents to live in another country also face many obstacles, including social stigma and discrimination often limiting their opportunities. Especially, when their parents are irregular migrants, these children may face insurmountable difficulties with respect to their access to even the most basic rights and needs, such as health care and education. We would like to hereby stress that each child of a migrant worker, irrespective of the migratory status of their parents, has the right of access to education and urgent medical care on the basis of equality of treatment with the nationals of the State concerned.
We often neglect or forget another category of children who are also affected by migration. In many countries of origin, children who are left behind by parents who migrate to seek better opportunities are confronted with emotional, psychological and practical problems caused by the dissolution of their family. We would like to stress the importance of the family as the natural and fundamental group of the society, which is entitled to protection by the States. It is in this respect that we invite States to consider in a positive, humane and expeditious manner all applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State for the purpose of family reunification.
Most countries in the world have accepted to guarantee and protect the children’s rights that have been set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nevertheless, in many of the situations sketched above, the rights of children continue to be violated.
In order to improve the protection of the rights of children of migrant workers, it is imperative that States also sign up to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which provides a comprehensive framework to deal with human rights in the context of migration. The Convention establishes obligations for countries of origin, transit and destination, therefore covering many of the issues surrounding children, such as: children left behind, children who migrate with parents, children who migrate alone, children in countries of destination, detention and repatriation of children, and reintegration of children in countries of origin.
On the occasion of International Migrants Day 2008, we therefore urge all States to effectively protect the rights of migrants, including children, and we call upon those States that have not yet done so, to consider becoming a party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as a matter of priority.