Listen to me! I am building my future

Originally posted by Terres des Hommes on Destination Unknown, on 20 June 2014.

Geneva, 19th June 2014, United Nations – “I want to continue writing, I want to travel the world, I want to go into fashion, and music, and business, and just try different ideas“.

These are quite banal but legitimate dreams any teenager would express nowadays. Hence, why does an international NGO like Terre des Hommes report them publically?

Because they are addressed to a specific audience, United Nations diplomats, Governments, Human Rights experts, journalists, some in tie and white collar, in an unusual location for a teenager wearing a “no more rock and roll” T-shirt and yellow jacket. Because these dreams are simply expressed during a quite formal so-called “Side-Event”, at the 26th Session of the United Nations Council on Human Rights, where codes and language are generally determined by UN diplomacy patterns.

Farah: from chains to freedom

These are the dreams of Farah. At 18 years of age, Farah has experienced more than some people do in a lifetime. Mostly, he experienced what a teenager should not experience. He told at the side event about fleeing his homeland, Somalia, his long journey through the desert, his experience of being detained and put in jail several times as a migrant, and why he believes integration is the only option. With an audience taken by the accounts of his experience of being detained, Farah always came with a positive perspective, with the incredible energy and ambition he has for his future. So what comes next for Farah? Just a legitimate wish to build his own life, and realize his dreams, like any other teenager.

Views and opinions of detained migrant children

A week ago, Terre des Hommes brought key messages of migrant children from Sicily to the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva. Views and opinions of children that were detained because of their migration status. It was reminded that millions of children are affected by immigration detention. The physical and mental health harms to these children have been well documented. Even short periods of detention can have lifelong negative impacts on children.
“They do to us whatever they like.  They treat us like animals, with no reason, just to play.  I would like that there are cameras.  I know you could then see with your own eyes because it is impossible to explain”. This is what a 16-year-old migrant from West Africa shared with the Terre des Hommes staff in charge of the Faro Project in South Italy.

The response of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants

“It is never in the best interest of a child to criminalize or detain them because of their or their parent’s migration status”.  François Crepeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, hammered this message with strong words and illustrations during the conference.

Ending Child Immigration Detention

The side event on “Ending child immigration detention” was organised jointly by four civil society organisations who strive to put an end to child immigration detention. Terre des Hommes, International Detention Coalition, PICUM and Save the Children promoted the conference in the framework of the End Immigration Detention of Children and the Destination Unknown campaigns. The Permanent Missions of Italy and Mexico to the UN, sponsors of the side-event, renewed their commitments to the protection of the rights of children in the context of migration. They  gave a special focus to the alternatives to detention.
All panellists highlighted the importance of putting a human face to the policy debates.  The UN Special Rapporteur, François Crepeau, to conclude “It is with migrants that we should be discussing and viewing the migrants as positive actors of societies”.

Farah’ story: a short video
Listen to Me! Destination Unknown Campaign Spot

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