Because they are vulnerable victims, States need to uphold the rights of unaccompanied migrant children

Geneva, 4 October 2017 - The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) welcomed the resolution on “Unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights” adopted by the Human Rights Council on 29 September.

An unaccompanied child in PakistanAn unaccompanied child in Pakistan. Photo: ICMC/ C. De Luca The Human Rights Council voiced concern about the risks faced by unaccompanied or separated children who may suffer grave abuses and human rights violations in countries of transit or destination. The resolution urged States to ensure that immigration policies abide by international human rights law. They should also consider the rights and needs of migrant children, including those related to health, education, and family reunification.

“ICMC has often brought attention to the situation of unaccompanied migrant children,” said ICMC Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, “and has advocated for many of the actions that have been so forcefully proposed by this resolution.”

The Human Rights Council “called upon States to ensure appropriate, integrated and gender-sensitive child protection care and services for all unaccompanied and separated migrant children and adolescents,” considering “the best interests of the child." 

In a recent report submitted to the United Nations Office for Human Rights, the ICMC advocated for ensuring that children’s best interests are always of primary concern. It also called for expanding safe and legal channels for migration of children and their parents, acknowledging the importance of family reunification.

“Recognizing that they are not criminals but victims and vulnerable,” the ICMC report reads, it is crucial “to implement more consistently existing mechanisms that facilitate careful identification, differentiation and referral of such children for the assistance and specific protection to which they have rights.”

ICMC has heard Pope Francis’ call to protect and integrate migrant children through on-the-ground projects, including in Honduras and Mexico where, in recent years, there has been a sharp increase in child migration both to the USA and to other countries in Latin America.