The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) announced on 17 November 2017 two Joint General Comments providing authoritative and extensive guidance in the protection the rights of child migrants. The UN Comments are based on consultations with UN agencies, states, civil society organisations and national human rights institutions from across the globe.
The Joint General Comments (CMW/C/GC/3-CRC/C/GC/22) and (CMW/C/GC/4-CRC/C/GC/23) from the ‘Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families’ and the ‘Committee on the Rights of the Child on the general principles regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration’ relate to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and provide the frame for rights-based migration policies in the 196 States that has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child including countries of origin, transit, destination and return and have the potential to form frameworks such as Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) regarding the rights of children.
The Comments reaffirm the fundamental principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: the Principles of non-discrimination, the right to life, survival and development, the right to be heard and to participate, the best interests of the child and right to liberty and freedom. HOwever, one of the most important elements of these comment is the introduction of a total ban of detention: “The detention of any child because of their or their parents’ migration status constitutes a child rights violation and contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child. In this light, both Committees have repeatedly affirmed that children should never be detained for reasons related to their or their parents’ migration status and States should expeditiously and completely cease or eradicate the immigration detention of children.”
Benyam Dawit Mezmur, former Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said: “The implementation of the new guidelines is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. It could help eradicate worrying practices, such as exposing children to trafficking and violence at the hands of criminals, or depriving children of their liberty because of their migration status, as well as separating families through immigration law enforcement and excluding some children from basic social services on the basis of their nationality and residence status.”
Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, said: “Ensuring the rights of all children in the context of migration is a critical means not only to promote social cohesion and integration in host societies, but also to adequately address in the medium and long term the root causes of migration through a rights-based and human development lens.”
The experts highlighted that the Joint General Comments could become a critical tool for the international community with respect to related initiatives, such as the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees. It will also contribute significantly to achieving the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so that no child is left behind.