Migrant children need opportunities, says Caritas

A Syrian refugee boy points at the Syrian flag he draws as he takes part in a computer classe on June 19, 2014 at Caritas Migrant Centre in Dahr El Ain, near Tripoli.

A Syrian refugee boy points at the Syrian flag he draws as he takes part in a computer classe on June 19, 2014 at Caritas Migrant Centre in Dahr El Ain, near Tripoli. Photo by Matthieu Alexandre for Caritas Internationalis

Caritas urges governments to prioritise the needs of unaccompanied migrant children on World Migrant Day (18 December 2014) and to increase employment opportunities in home countries for young people.

Children may migrate alone for economic reasons, so they can support their families back home; or to flee violence and instability or to join family members in other parts of the world.

“The migrant journey, which is often long and full of difficulties and uncertainty, is particularly difficult for children,” says Maria Suelzu, Caritas’ advocacy officer for child migrants. “These children are often also under the enormous pressure of finding a job and sending  money home. As a result  they are often victims of exploitation during their journey to another country and abroad.

Caritas says that ensuring educational and employment opportunities in home countries is key to preventing young people under the age of 18 from embarking on migrant journeys alone.

Even though legal instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child exist, Caritas urges governments to implement such instruments to ensure the protection of migrant children who are particularly vulnerable to rights abuses.

Governments of home and host countries should share good practices to improve immigration services and the handling of unaccompanied minor migrants. Countries should also see where they can collaborate to boost the employment opportunities of young people, both at home and abroad.

In a message regarding child migrants earlier this year, Pope Francis said, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin. Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

Caritas organisations in a number of countries have projects to help child migrants integrate and feel safe. These include, for example, the provision of a guardian to help the child navigate bureaucracy and link up with family members in Belgium; Caritas in Morocco helps children join the mainstream school system and Caritas in Rome provides educational and psychological, as well as material help.

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough at hough@caritas.va or call +39 06 6987 9752 or +39 334 2344 136.

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