Nov 19, 2020

For children who are seeking asylum in countries, hope that the country will protect them, being on the move brings challenges and opportunities, risks and danger, where many others make decisions about them, as they decide for themselves how to go on, and how to be still, in the contexts and processes that surround them. Their movements from danger to safety are part of greater migratory flows that generate life, death, and uncertainty depending on the contexts of reception, resettlement or return. Children are seeking asylum moves in three dimensions at the same time. Firstly, they make journeys across geographical spaces, beyond the borders of the country of origin, to get to safety. Secondly, they also move across time, getting older as they go, amassing experiences and memories of where they have been. Thirdly, they move psychologically in different directions, adjusting their experiences like gyroscopes seeking balance, arranging their stories of who they are, what happened to them, and how they came to be asking for asylum.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the first human rights treaty that has considered a series of individual human rights specifically for children. Countries become state parties to these treaties and have several obligations to fulfil about the fulfilment of these treaties. Under Article 22 of the CRC, a child or young person who leaves their country of origin to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, has the right to appropriate protection and provisions, such as health, education, and housing. The rights under the CRC govern all children regardless of where in the world they are located; thus, refugee and asylum-seeking children do not lose any of their rights simply because they have moved from one country to another but situation is not as per the rules. The provision under this article captures the broad international consensus that (i) refugee children are owed appropriate protection and international assistance, (ii) all of their rights under the CRC as well as other international human rights treaties and humanitarian law must be upheld, (iii) S.P.s must cooperate with the U.N. and related agencies to protect and assist such children, and (iv) family reunification is a priority obligation of governments serving the best interests of children, having particular regard for unaccompanied and separated children.

Some attributes should be able to present the essence and standards of their corresponding right. Four attributes have been identified for Article 22 of the CRC, which are:

  • Appropriate Protection and Humanitarian Assistance: refugee and asylum-seeking children are not to be granted a special status, nor to be treated as having any lesser status than children of the host country. Therefore, children, regardless of their migration status, should continue to realize all their CRC rights, including non-discriminatory access to early childhood education, formal and non-formal learning settings, and vocational and technical training.
  • Preservation of Rights: The desire to preserve rights is evident, although significant action is needed to keep states accountable and to uphold commitments made under international treaties, including the CRC.
  • Duty to Protect and Assist through International Cooperation: states are struggling to manage the safe migration of children due to insufficient resources, capacity, and political will. Lengthy and difficult processes for rendering appropriate permits, visas, and documentation, and bans on migration create significant barriers that put children in danger. Professionals who interact with refugee and asylum-seeking children need to be trained in child rights, but this is rarely the case. 
  • Best Interests and Family Reunification Principles: An alarming number of refugee and asylum-seeking children leave home unaccompanied by their parents or guardians or are separated from them during the period of being on the move. Most countries contain several different legal barriers within their policies and procedures that create difficulties for family reunification and thus "prevent many children from enjoying the right to respect and enjoyment of the family life to which they are entitled". There are, however, programs for family reunification that assist vulnerable families fleeing their country of origin.

There is still much to learn about safeguarding migration channels and ensuring that risks are mitigated as children move across borders. Many of the detrimental ramifications on health and development, such as trauma, being separated from loved ones, and exploitation, are exacerbated by the dangerous journeys to safety. At the landing point, globally, there is a need for more child-friendly accommodations and services, especially for children waiting for claims to be processed. At a national level, there needs to be better accountability, monitoring, and reporting mechanisms in place to ensure that states are upholding their CRC and other international commitments.