Formerly undocumented women address European Parliament to advocate for children’s rights

On the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, five young women, once undocumented, participated in the high-level celebration at the European Parliament on November 20.

Akhrat Selevani, one of the young women, addressed the Parliament and international delegates to share her experience of growing up undocumented in the Netherlands. Akhrat had come to the Netherlands from Iraq in 2005 as a six-year-old but was granted residence papers only in 2014.

During her speech, Akhrat talked about the challenges undocumented children and teenagers face to access decent housing – remembering how she had to move five times in her first year in te Netherlands. She also addressed the fact that undocumented young people cannot access education once they turn 18, as well as their inability to co-decide on matters that affect them the most.

At PICUM we believe it is crucial for policy-makers to listen to young undocumented people directly if we are to have policies that take their best interests into account. We were delighted to host these five young women, all of them Youth Ambassadors for Defence for Children The Netherlands, and set up meetings for them to discuss their perspectives on living undocumented and migration policies with officials from the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as a joint meeting with Mrs Velina Todorova, vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

On the 30th anniversary of the Convention, we joined other international civil society organisations and UN agencies in calling EU leaders to effectively implement the rights of the child, regardless of their residence status.

In particular, we call for dedicated funding under the new EU budget, for a Child Guarantee which would support EU countries in helping all children, as well as mechanisms which would ensure the meaningful consultation and participation of children in the policy-making process.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention, the European Parliament further adopted a resolution recalling “that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all decisions concerning children and migration” and calling “to work out community-based alternatives to detention. The Parliament further calls Member States to take into consideration the vulnerabilities of undocumented children.

The high-level event was opened by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians and David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. Spanish singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Bisbal also performed an opening song.

Read more about our work on undocumented children, youth and families here.

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