Protect children on the move
Thousands of children around the world are on the move. They lost home. They are escaping poverty, violence or disaster. They may end up exploited or abused. Their destination is unknown. Let’s mobilize to protect their rights.
Children on the move! This is about a child’s personal life. It is about the living conditions of his or her family and community. This is about violence or exploitation. It is about the capacity of governments to offer him or her a protective environment and opportunities for a better life. In short, it is about child rights and child protection.
Children on the move is an increasing reality. A phenomenon that is still unknown or ignored, but that represents a major global challenge, today and for the upcoming decades.
An estimated 214 million persons worldwide are international migrants, along with an estimated 740 million internal migrants (ILO, 2010). This includes millions of children under the age of 18 who migrate internally or across national borders, with or without their parents. In the coming years an unprecedented number of young people are expected to be “on the move”.
Destination Unknown: from child trafficking to child mobility
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Terre des Hommes (TDH) has decided to address this challenge by running an international programme called “Destination Unknown”. This programme aims to provide direct support to children on the move, raise awareness, and advocate for policy change. In doing so, Terre des Hommes refers to international conventions; the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a primary reference, together with others international human rights and child rights standards, including the rights of migrants.
Destination Unknown programme is based on the lessons learned from the 10-years long action against child trafficking; the “International Campaign against Child Trafficking” (ICaCT). This campaign (2001-2011) conducted by Terre des Hommes was a source of influence on governments, donors, the media and wider public opinion to show that human trafficking in general, and child trafficking in particular, constituted human rights violations that deserved adequate responses. It also represented an important opportunity for Terre des Hommes and partners to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.
From that experience, Terre des Hommes learnt a lot about child trafficking and the specific pattern of child abuse implying mobility. In particular, Terre des Hommes learnt that an adequate response to child trafficking would remain piecemeal and without tackling and understanding better the whole phenomenon of how protecting children on the move. As such, Terre des Hommes is adopting a continuum approach, where child trafficking is seen as a specific aspect of child mobility and child protection.
Children on the move; who are they?
With “children on the move” Terre des Hommes addresses those children who have left home and are either on the way to a new destination, or have already reached it: trafficked, unaccompanied, in street situation, kidnapped, forced to migration, refugees, asylum seekers, nomadic…across the world millions of children are on the move.
There are a myriad of reasons why children move. For many, leaving home promises the chance of a better life. They may be running away from conflicts, violence and abuse in the home or at school, or from the announcement of an arranged marriage. They also may decide to leave as they are in search of education or employment. In short, in search of their own future.
Mobility increases vulnerability. Children may end up being exploited. At the same time, mobility can represent a great potential for their life perspectives and personal development. Provided they can benefit or find the way towards protection along the trip.
Yet, despite the high number of children moving, their needs and interests are largely absent from the preoccupation of public authorities. To the date, most governments and international institutions have failed to develop adequate responses to assist and protect these vulnerable children. Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments are obliged to protect all children - irrespective of their legal status or place of origin – but many governments still perceive children on the move as outsiders, threats or offenders of laws, leaving them without adequate protection and often subject to prosecution, detention or unsafe return to their origin place.
Prevention efforts aiming at simplistically avoiding children to move has proven to be inappropriate, inefficient and unrealistic. In addition, it can result being against the best interest of the child or hamper the fundamental right to move a child is entitled to.
Terre des Hommes promotes protection and best interest of the child whenever she or he will move away from home.
Which is the way Terre des Hommes works?
RAISE AWARENESS by demonstrating that the lack of specific protection and services for children can lead to concrete rights violations experienced by children both at home, during their move or at destination.
OPERATE by putting in place protection mechanisms for children along their migratory path, from the place of origin to their final destination, assuming that children are forced – or have the right - to move and to benefit from protection.
ADVOCATE by producing research and lessons learnt along movement routes, by identifying solutions that last and respond to the need of children on the move, by influencing policy, practice and legislation where relevant through field-based recommendations.
Today Terre des Hommes organisations run 135 PROJECTS in 40 countries to help children on the move and their communities. Together with field partners Terre des Hommes organisations engage and mobilize to provide BASIC SERVICES to children and their communities, including psycho-social support aiming at their own empowerment.
In terms of bridging efforts and delivering expertise for policy development, Terre des Hommes is actively engaging to raise the issue of child mobility in NGO networks and public institutions:
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