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“The SDGs speak about ‘leaving no one behind’ whilst the EU, on Malta’s initiative, is now discussing the suspension of the non-refoulement principle at Europe’s borders,” said Terre des Hommes’ Vincent Tournecuillert at a conference organised by Maltese NGO coalition SKOP on Monday.

Vincent was speaking at the launch of the Educating for Change project. It aims to inform the Maltese public on how situations in both the Global South and more developed countries are inextricably linked.

Malta currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. This means that national pressure could indirectly improve the situation of both migrating children and children in the Global South, as Malta’s government will make decisions which have global ramifications over the next five months.

Often, children’s voices are not heard during discussions on migration. This means they have no input on the decisions affecting their future.

Kopin, a member of the Destination Unknown campaign, is also alarmed at the possibility of children arriving in Malta being rendered stateless – as Malta has not signed the UN Conventions on Statelessness.

How climate change is forcing children to migrate also needs to be emphasised. Kopin is drawing attention to how smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are seeing their livelihoods destroyed – and if opportunities for children and young people are destroyed along with them, they will have no choice other than to leave.

This may seem like a localised project. But if pressure on the Maltese government reaches a critical point, they may use their position as President of the Council of the EU to instigate lasting change across the world.

Terre des Homme believes that children on the move have the right to move, as well as to be protected. Rather than pushing to stop children migrating – which flies in the face of their most basic rights – the Maltese EU Presidency must instead work to truly improve the lives of children seeking sanctuary in Europe and beyond.

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