19 September 2016

Ensuring the rights of migrant and refugee children

SOS Children's Villages makes its case at a high-level UN meeting

Elba Coria, an expert on refugee and migrant children, speaks during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. Photographer: Screenshot from UN Web TV

SOS Children’s Villages took a key role at a high-level UN meeting by calling for the rights of migrant and refugee children to be included in discussions and in a declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly.

SOS Children's Villages was the only child-focused organisation to address the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September. It was represented by Richard Pichler, Special Representative for External Affairs and Resources; Sofía García García, the SOS representative at the United Nations; and Sair Pinilla, project manager of SOS Mexico’s pilot programme on alternative care for unaccompanied migrant and refugee children.

“We must take action to ensure that migrant and refugee children are protected and their rights respected,” Mr Pichler said. “We could showcase in front of Prime Ministers and Ministers from all over the world  that detention of children is not needed at all and that there are proven alternatives as SOS Children’s Villages are practicing e.g. through SOS Children’s Villages Mexico and in other countries. Participation in this meeting allowed us to ensure the rights of migrant and refugee children are at the centre of international action on the topic of refugees and migrants.”

 
Richard Pichler, special representative for External Affairs and Resources, is flanked by Sair Pinilla (right), project manager of SOS Mexico’s pilot programme on alternative care for unaccompanied migrant and refugee children, and Elba Coria, who spoke at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. Photo: Sofía García García

Elba Coria, an expert on refugee and migrant children, spoke at the meeting. The director of the Legal Clinic for refugees and migrants at the  Ibero-American University in Mexico City, Ms Coria advised and supported SOS Children’s Villages Mexico during the design and implementation of the pilot programme on alternative care for unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in Mexico City. This programme was showcased as a best practice example at the UN high-level meeting.
 

Ms Coria highlighted the need to put people, especially children, at the centre of state cooperation practices and when defining the support countries should provide to refugees. “Children are detained without any other consideration than their irregular status or their parents’ status. Detention is never in the best interest of the child. Alternative care options are a better way to protect them”, she told the summit.

The summit outcome document, which is intended to guide international action on the topic of refugees and migrants, was adopted and approved by the plenary of the UN member states. SOS Children’s Villages took a leading role during negotiations of the document, arguing that the rights of migrant and refugee children, with a particular focus on unaccompanied and separated children, should be included. A video of the meeting is available here; Ms Coria begins speaking at around 21:12. 


Read our position paper on migrant and refugee children

Related article: Rights of migrant and refugee children must be protected