“We are children on the move. But, first of all, we are children – with children’s rights” is the general principle of a Youth Call written by youths involved in the Destination Unknown Campaign and the International Youth Network of Terre des Hommes Germany to gain a better understanding of the actual demands and situation of children on the move.
The Youth Call is based on the contributions provided by 73 children and youth on the move who are currently in 19 countries of Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East and Europe and who reported their personal experiences, demands and proposals.
It shows that these children are on the move for different reasons: some of them were forced to leave their homes due to war or violence; some of them were abandoned by their families; some of them had to leave their country because of their extreme poverty. Some of them were trafficked and exploited. Others were born in refugee camps or stateless.
They moved looking for a better life, met new friends and experienced new countries and places. However, they resulted in being exposed to further risks of neglect, violence and exploitation due to the lack of effective child protection systems.
“Nobody helps us in case we are hungry, ill or sad. We don’t know whom to trust. Nobody sees us – except those who abuse and exploit us. Many people insult us and keep on saying that we are a problem.
In some countries we are arrested, detained or even imprisoned because we are on the move and do not have a home to return to. Nearly everywhere governments deny that we exist. Some governments refuse to let us go to school. If we get sick, if we are trafficked or sent to war as soldiers, if we just don’t know where to go next, we cannot ask anybody for help”.
To ensure that children on the move are regarded and treated as children first and foremost, the call urges people and governments to uphold the children’s dignity, to respect their rights and to protect them from violence and exploitation.
Moreover, it calls for taking the opinion of children on the move into account when making decisions affecting them as the children know their situation best and can provide ideas on solutions and improvements:
“Each child has an individual solution and path to take – which needs to be found and made possible. Children and youth must be empowered and allowed to participate in all decisions made about them”.
The Youth Call is an important step to ensure youth participation and Terre des Hommes encourages its broad dissemination by using it as an instrument for communication and advocacy activities.
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