Dialogue and exchange visit on unaccompanied migrant children1
Washington DC July 14-18, 2014
A group of civil society organizations from Mexico, Central America and the United States2 focused on the rights of children and adolescents in the context of migration express their concern in response to the strategies currently being proposed by the United States, Mexican and Central American governments. The measures that have been announced or are under discussion not only go against the human rights and protections of these children and adolescents, but on the one hand will not in any way reduce migration, but on the other hand may even increase levels of violence and jeopardize the lives and wellbeing of these children both in their countries of origin and in their transit to the United States.
Faced with massive attention towards child and adolescent migration, a phenomenon of which civil society has been raising awareness for a while and for which it has demanded appropriate and comprehensive public policies, the regional governments’ position is focused on short-term responses from a security-based perspective that do not take into account the structural causes of migration. Within the debate, there is grave concern that the funds that the United States is planning to appropriate for countries in the region are focused primarily on measures for border enforcement and militarization which will only increase the vulnerability of these children, as well as, among other things, their need to migrate.
1 This meeting was supported by the Alianza par alas Migraciones en Centroamerica y Mexico/Central American an Mexican Migration Alliance – CAMMINA, in the context of the project: Strengthening Regional Institutional Engagement on the Issue of Child Migration led by the Scalabrinian Mission of San Carlos.
CAMMINA is an alliance created by three international philanthropic organizations (The Avina Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation) whose mission consists in working towards sustainable changes in public policies that promote the rights of migrants and contributes to sustainable economies in communities of origin in Mexico and Central America so that migration can be considered an option and not a necessity.
2 The Regional Working Group on Child Migrants was created several months ago and consists of various civil society organizations from the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico (southern border, Central, and northern border) and the United States. The primary purpose of this workgroup has been to generate spaces and opportunities for coming together, discussing and creating joint proposals from a regional perspective on the subject of unaccompanied child migration. A new and unique characteristic of this group is that it brings together countries of origin, transit, and destination which permits a more holistic understanding of the distinct dynamics at play, as well as compliment and build individual and/or joint activities.
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Countries in the region have yet to offer concrete solutions to the different forms of violence (social, institutional, gender-based, and domestic), persecution, discrimination and social exclusion that these children and adolescents are exposed to, and which compels them to leave their communities. The security-based focus that dominates the immigration agenda of these countries is far removed from the long overdue need to create the short and long-term social development programs that would generate the conditions and opportunities for living a dignified life, free from every form of violence. Solutions cannot be solely centered on the need to discourage migration; as such measures have no effect precisely because they fail to address its causes.
Countries have publicly stated that this is a humanitarian crisis. Therefore, the response should be based on humanitarian criteria, including immediate, as well as long-term protection measures for all children. This must incorporate a human rights and development-based approach that addresses the many factors spurring the current situation. These factors are structurally intertwined, and for precisely this reason they must be jointly addressed.
It is urgent that the U.S. and Mexican governments review their immigration policies, as these immigration practices and policies are aimed at tightening border security, which leads to greater control and persecution of migrants and increases risks for children and adolescents in particular, who, despite having been deported, attempt to undertake the migrant journey again in many cases, exposing themselves yet again to the dangers of the journey and human rights violations. This structural and complex phenomenon must be met with other responses such as:
- Countries of origin, transit and destination must prioritize the protection of child and adolescent migrants and guarantee their rights at all stages of the migration process.
- In the immediate future, it is vital that children not be automatically returned or deported, or placed in migration detention centers. Rather they should be housed in shelters that fully protect them and that have the appropriate conditions to ensure their rights are protected, and that especially allow for the full exercise of the right to family unity.
- Ensure the implementation of comprehensive and adequate protection measures based on the best interests of each child’s individual case. These measures must be the result of an individualized process, in which due process is guaranteed, including the right to legal defense, to a guardian, to adequate information in his or her native language, the right to be heard, and the right to consular assistance, among other
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rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The current situation represents an important opportunity for the countries involved, under the principle of shared responsibility, to address this issue comprehensively with short, middle and long-term responses to improve the present situation and future for thousands of children and adolescents in countries of origin, transit, destination, and return.
For these reasons, we call on these governments to adopt social development policies at the national and regional levels that respect the right to not migrate, meaning ensuring dignified living conditions that are free of all forms of violence and discrimination for each and every person. And in the event that children do migrate, that governments receive them, whether permanently or temporarily, granting them due process and the humanitarian protections that are required under national and international law.
Observatorio de Legislación y Política Migratoria, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte - Casa YMCA de Menores Migrantes - Iniciativa Frontera Norte de México - Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A.C. –International Detention Coalition (IDC) /México - Asociación Misioneros de San Carlos Scalabrinianos / El Salvador - Pastoral de Movilidad Humana (PMH) /Guatemala - Asociación Pop No´j /Guatemala - Casa Alianza / Honduras - Center for Gender & Refugee Studies National Immigrant Justice Center - Trans-Border Institute -Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego- Latin America Working Group (LAWG) – Washington Office on Latin American (WOLA) – Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) /United States - Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Nacional de Lanús/ Argentina
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Carol Girón Solórzano
Pastoral de Movilidad Humana
(502) 2432 5654
Latin America Working Group
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A.C.
(52) 96264 250 98