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A Syrian child refugee in Jordan. ©Tdh/Ollivier Girard

“NGOs working with and for refugees throughout the world remain committed to ensuring that refugees, forced migrants and other vulnerable groups have a chance to seek protection and begin new lives in the United States and elsewhere, safe from persecution, discrimination, xenophobia and racism”.

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies’ (ICVA) statement released today also “strongly urges the Government of the United States to quickly revert to its tradition of providing protection to the world’s most vulnerable and show leadership in demonstrating compassion for fellow human beings. All other States also have to adhere to their humanitarian and human rights commitments.”

More than 50 percent of refugees worldwide are now children. The recent decisions taken by the Government of the United States represent the latest example of a negative trend leaving even less options for children and their families to find safety.

“What we are seeing is a misguided and disproportionate focus on enforcement, an obsession with appearing tough, and it’s hurting children and their families the most” said the Coordinator of the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, Leeanne Torpey.

“This negative trend is not what was promised 130 days ago. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants Summit on 19 September 2016 expresses the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale. The New York Declaration contains a number of important commitments to children. Yet the fact world leaders seem to have already forgotten this could further divide society,” said Ignacio Packer, Secretary General of Terre des Hommes.

States committed to “comply with our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child” and drawing upon the specific commitments on the Convention on the Rights of the Child condensed in the 9 Recommended Principles for Children On the Move and Other Children Affected by Migration. This would guarantee that children are always children first and foremost, and should never be criminalised or punished for seeking entry or stay in another country.

Whether accompanied or unaccompanied, all children are entitled to protection and care. Member states have a legal but also moral obligation to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all refugee and migrant children, regardless of their status, and giving primary consideration at all times to the best interests of the child.

Destination Unknown is strongly supportive of the ICVA statement. Many Destination Unknown organisations are members of ICVA, the only global alliance of humanitarian NGOs. Terre des Hommes is member of the ICVA governing body, the Board, elected by the General Assembly.

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