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This is a joint blog by two civil society campaigns advocating for child rights: the Destination Unknown Campaign, and the End Child Immigration Detention Campaign

An estimated 50 million children are on the move today*.

Refugee and migrant children are fleeing conflict, violence and persecution – or escaping poverty and seeking opportunities for a better life they don’t have where they live. They travel with their families and they travel alone, all the while at risk of abuse and exploitation and often unable to access basic services such as healthcare and education.

These children face grave risks. Global Compacts currently being developed by the United Nations – one on migration, and one on refugees – will address how States respond to the current realities which refugees and migrants face. We have seen the principles for the compacts already, but after a year of consultations, States are now entering a phase of negotiation on the compacts.

Today, in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, delegations from m 192 UN Member States will meet to reflect on the consultations they have undertaken on the Migration Compact.

Last weekend saw more than 70 members of civil society, representing every country in the UN, come together to undertake their own stock-taking exercise, to clarify and consolidate our collective messages. For the Destination Unknown and End Child Detention campaigns, our message is that both compacts could pave the way for children on the move to have all their rights respected – including the right to move – and be protected wherever they are.

There is a crucial word in that sentence above: could.

The compacts could also see a lowering of the bar when it comes to human rights. This is, obviously, not a situation we want to see materialise.

As negotiations begin, it is crucial that civil society harnesses its considerable expertise and works with States, providing positive examples, understanding States’ concerns, and has convincing and compelling arguments, including voices from children on the move themselves, to influence them.

Together, and as part of the above Initiative, both of our campaigns have some joint messages that we hope to see in the compacts.

Firstly, the detention of children purely because of their migration or asylum status must be consigned to the past. Despite committing to work towards ending this practice when signing the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants last year, governments worldwide appear to be backtracking on their promise.

Access to education must also be a cornerstone of these future international commitments. Children must be able to realize their rights to education, including non-discriminatory access to well-funded, quality education and learning opportunities regardless of their migration or asylum status – from formal primary, secondary and university schooling to language training and access to apprenticeships.

Education is just one human right which children on the move must be able to fulfil. Children and their families must be able to get healthcare, use the judicial system, report crimes to the police and use other social provisions without the fear of detection, detention or deportation.

The right of children to decide to move and have an integral say in their own development must be respected. Efforts must be made to teach children, their families and their communities about safe migration and its possible risks, and information must be provided in both a language and level of complexity suitable for the child’s level of maturity and understanding.

Children on the move face many risks, and need the solid support of all countries they move from and through, stay for a time, settle in and may return to. For this to become a reality, this week’s meeting in Puerto Vallarta must put children’s rights into the foundations of the future Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees.

Many of our campaign supporters have expressed an interest in the Global Compacts process, but often don’t know where to start. Here are a few ways that you can get involved:

  • Find out which organisations are working on the Global Compacts in your country. Work out what your expertise is, and how you can support collective work being undertaken. Get in touch with us and we can let you know if others are working on this.
  • Meet with the representatives in your governments working on the Global Compacts. Meet with them again. And again. And again. Build a trusting relationship that enables both parties understand how their various areas of knowledge can combine to improve the situation for migrants and refuges, and meet the needs of the State.
  • Join the Destination Unknown Campaign and the End Child Detention Campaign. Together with the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, our two campaigns promote the rights of children in the global compacts, and joining us is a way for you to become part of the movement protecting the rights of children on the move.

Both campaigns are in the Child Rights Initiative which has developed some key documents for Global Compact Advocacy.  Feel free to adopt and use these as you need!

Would you like to know more?

Email Leeanne@endchilddetention.org and info@destination-unknown.org

*source Unicef

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