18 December 2020 - Global

‘Stop Treating Child Migrants as Criminals’ – Save the Children


On International Migrants Day Save the Children warns governments not to criminalise child migrants and risk causing further trauma and alienation. 

Migrants, especially children, should not be treated as criminals, Save the Children urged on International Migrants Day. Migrant children, many of whom have travelled thousands of kilometres and endured harrowing and life-threatening events, should be treated humanely and in a manner that encourages acceptance, not alienation. The charity issued its warning today, after recent demonstrations against migrants and refugees in the Canary Islands, where close to 20,000 people have arrived over the past year, mainly from West Africa.

Eric Hazard, Pan-African Campaign and Advocacy Director at Save the Children said:
“Children shouldn’t be criminalised for wanting a better life. Many, especially those travelling alone, are looking to escape terrible hardship at home, including conflict, attacks and poverty. During often life-threatening journeys many children will have seen people dying on overcrowded boats, as is now happening between West Africa and the Canary Islands. Others have experienced violence and separation from their parents, potentially scarring them for life. 

“Locking them up in detention centres and treating them as criminals can even cause trauma and risks them becoming alienated or even vilified by the public, when the goal should be acceptance and providing safety. 

“Save the Children strongly urges governments to increase political and financial support to ensure the protection of children, with a specific focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, including girls and children affected by armed conflict. Countries must ensure that migrants are sheltered humanely, not in overcrowded conditions, and that children's rights are respected.  

World leaders must ensure legal, safe routes so migrants no longer have to risk their lives in dangerous sea crossings and children don’t have to turn to smugglers or traffickers just to cross a border or a sea. At the same time, governments need to work with countries of origin to tackle the root causes of migration such as poverty and conflict, by providing all children with a quality education and the chance of a better life.” 

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