As State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), governments have a duty to respect, protect and fulfill the specific obligations related to each child within their jurisdiction, without discrimination based on their or their parents’ migration or other status. We, the undersigned individuals and organisations, call on governments across the Asia-Pacific region to uphold and fulfill these rights for all children in the context of migration.
Children in the context of migration are often forced to live a precarious existence on the margins of society, facing risks and challenges that have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These children struggle to access basic services, including healthcare, education and protection, and are at heightened risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. These risks are most acute for the most vulnerable, including unaccompanied and separated children, children living in situations of protracted irregularity, LGBTIQ adolescents and youth, and children with disabilities. Despite encouraging efforts in several countries, far too many children continue to face the risks of immigration detention.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) represents a breakthrough for children and States alike. The Compact is rooted in the CRC and recognizes that meeting the specific needs of children and young people is central to migration management. The commitments across the GCM’s 23 objectives provide governments with a practical tool to meet their existing child rights obligations and to protect, include and empower all children, regardless of status, in countries of origin, transit, destination and return.
As governments and other key stakeholders gather for the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of Implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on 10-12 March 2021, we call for child rights to be placed at the heart of migration management and national efforts to implement the GCM.
This communiqué reflects the outcomes of the virtual roundtable “Child Rights and Migration in Asia” on 25 February 2021, co-organised by the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, the International Detention Coalition, Save the Children, UNICEF and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth.
Key recommendations for governments and other stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region include:
Uphold the rights of children in the context of migration, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and supplemented by the Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaty bodies.
Prioritise the implementation of child-relevant commitments in the GCM and strengthen national capacities to apply the Compact’s guiding principle of child-sensitivity. Apply an age, gender, disability and diversity lens to the implementation of the GCM to ensure that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in all relevant policies and practices.
Involve children and youth as key stakeholders and partners in the design and monitoring of GCM implementation at national and regional levels through meaningful engagement and capacity support. A whole-of-society approach requires that the voices and views of those most affected are heard.
Adopt and implement measures to ensure that migrant girls and boys have full and equal access to national education, healthcare, child protection, justice and social protection systems, including by removing legal, administrative and practical barriers. This should include bridging language barriers, providing specialist training to service caregivers, social workers, teachers, doctors and other personnel, and ensuring services are affordable. Children must be able to access services irrespective of their migration status and without fear of being reported to migration authorities, including by ensuring access to justice for migrant women and girls affected by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and other forms of violence.
Bring national frameworks in line with international human rights and humanitarian standards to ensure that undocumented migrants are not criminalised. End the harmful practice of immigration detention of all children in law and practice, and scale up and implement non-custodial, community-based alternatives that preserve the right to family unity, ensuring the adequate reception, protection and care of every migrant child.
Work to end all forms of xenophobia, stigma and discrimination against migrant children and their families by addressing legal and policy-induced discrimination and exclusion. Monitor and combat hate speech, online and offline, and support the critical role of local leadership in recognizing migrants’ contributions to societies and shaping public perceptions and support.
Further strengthen the evidence base on children in the context of migration by improving and investing in the collection and analysis of accurate, reliable, comparable data, disaggregated by sex, age, migration status and other characteristics relevant in national contexts, while upholding the right to privacy under international human rights law.
Ensure that COVID-19 responses fully take into account the needs and rights of migrant children and families. Public health considerations should be the first criteria when allocating vaccines, not migration status or nationality. The delivery of inclusive vaccine strategies requires that pre-pandemic barriers to accessing healthcare are addressed through outreach and communication campaigns. For migrants to be confident that accessing healthcare or vaccinations will not expose them to detection and deportation, firewalls must be in place between healthcare providers and immigration authorities. Consider putting in place financial support schemes for migrant families affected by the pandemic-induced financial crisis, including to account for the loss of income from remittances.
Balik sa Bayan PH
Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts
International Detention Coalition
International Organization for Migration
Justice Centre Hong Kong
Mixed Migration Centre
Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Australia
Save the Children
Terre des Hommes Netherlands
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth
Amihan Abueva, Regional Executive Director, Child Rights Coalition Asia
Khadijah Madihi, Independent Consultant
Mahesh Menon, Assistant Professor of Law, Sai University
Dr Bipasha Roy, Independent Child Rights Activist