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Migration: children among the most vulnerable to human rights violations

NEW YORK / UN (26 October 2009) – “Arbitrary and incommunicado detention; xenophobia and discrimination; threats to life and personal security; collective deportations and expulsions; these human rights violations -and many others- define the life of millions of migrants around the world every day,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, presenting his report* to the UN General Assembly in New York.
“The millions of people who risk their lives and safety in order to cross international borders in search of a better life and those who live outside their countries of origin as migrants, regardless of their immigration status, are first and foremost human beings and therefore, holders of universal human rights,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
“At all stages of the migration process,” stressed the UN expert, “children -especially those unaccompanied or separated from their parents- are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations and abuses.” These include children left behind by migrant family members, children who move across borders in countries of transit and destination and children staying in host countries.
Children are increasingly being part of mixed migratory flows, mass population movements of refugees, asylum-seekers, economic and other migrants, falling prey to transnational organized crime syndicates and exploitation practices such as smuggling, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery.
In his report to the UN General Assembly, Bustamante reveals how abusive some migration experiences may be for many children and warns that two major protection gaps remain in most countries: “The lack of specific provisions on children in most migration laws and the failure to take into account the specific conditions and needs of migrant children in public policies.”
The UN Special Rapporteur stressed the gender dimension of migration given the special vulnerability of the girl child to gender-based violence and discrimination, which includes issues of trafficking in persons for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour and other forms of exploitation, as well as other abuses to which the girl child is more vulnerable during migration.
“Despite the progress made, much remains to be done to ensure the protection of human rights in the context of migration as well as to ensure the enjoyment of human rights by migrants all over the world", said Bustamante.
In his view “there is a need for a serious and in-depth approach to address the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which continue to affect migrants and to take a strong stand against the criminalization of irregular migration, since migrants are not criminals.”
Mr. Jorge A. Bustamante, a Mexican national, is an independent expert appointed as Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants by the former Commission on Human Rights in 2005. His mandate was extended by the Human Rights Council in 2008 to help states and others, promote and protect the human rights of migrants. Some of the functions of the Special Rapporteur include to examine means and ways to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, recognizing the particular vulnerability of women, children and those undocumented or in an irregular situation.
(*) The Special Rapporteur’s report is available at: