Ahead of Universal Children’s Day on 20 November 2016, PICUM launches a collection of testimonies*, which highlights the challenges faced by children and young people considered irregular or undocumented migrants and the strength it takes to overcome them day by day.
Hafidh an undocumented young person in France, said: “Since I have been arrested, anxiety and fear have become my everyday life. I am afraid to go out. I am anxious every morning when I get up to go to class because I am afraid of being deported, of waking up one day and thinking that I’m no longer among my own people.”
When accompanied by a parent, migrant children are often treated as adults, rather than individuals with agency and rights of their own. Their rights as a child and best interests are very rarely considered, and they are not heard in immigration and asylum proceedings. If children are irregular or undocumented migrants, they can be prevented from accessing essential services, including education and health care. They also face arrest, detention and deportation.
As states continue to adopt ever more restrictive policies, the direct consequences will be felt by children. We can also expect to see an increase in the number of undocumented children in Europe. A significant proportion of those who have arrived in recent months and years will have their applications refused, but not all will return or be forcibly removed, regardless of the current political will to do so. Regular ways to come to Europe, such as family reunification, remain limited. The increasing barriers to access protection will push more children, young people and families into precarious and irregular residence.
“Children being/becoming/remaining undocumented may say more about our system failures than we care to hear. We should do everything possible to realise the rights of all children and increase the capacity of duty-bearers to respect the rights of all children,” Margaret Tuite, European Commission Child Rights Coordinator, noted.
Bringing together a range of individual stories and testimonies in different formats, from around Europe, the booklet presents personal perspectives on some of the pervasive impacts that immigration control measures can have on the well-being and development of children and young people. It also gives a platform to their voices and resilience.The creativity and participation of undocumented children and young people should be recognised and supported through urgent reforms in policy and practice.
The European Union Forum on the Rights of the Child on 29-30 November will focus on children in migration, and will be an essential opportunity to discuss both the need for political recommitment to all migrant children, regardless of status, as well as the concrete measures to be taken. More resources must be allocated to implement programmes to ensure that undocumented children can access services, protection and justice and procedural changes must be made to uphold children’s rights in migration and asylum procedures, regularise their status and most importantly – hear their voices.