Alliance Calls on Government to Lead the Way in Protecting Displaced Children
20 September 2017 at 5:31 pm
A coalition of NGOs has called on the Australian government to lead the way in protecting child refugees and migrants when two ground-breaking compacts are discussed at the United Nations General Assembly this week.
Australian members of the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts – including Save the Children, UNICEF Australia, World Vision, International Detention Coalition, the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network and ISS Australia – released a policy brief outlining key recommendations on Wednesday.
The NGO’s said its recommendations were “concrete actions” based on global commitments made in the UN’s 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and included a ban on immigration detention of children.
“The call comes as more than 400,000 people flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh in one of the region’s largest reported population displacements in recent years; and migrants continue to drown in their thousands in the Mediterranean,” the group said.
Among other policy changes, the NGO coalition called on the government to:
- significantly increase Australia’s annual humanitarian intake to offer protection to more people, including children;
- ban immigration detention of children; ensure families are kept together wherever possible, and migrant children have access to child protection services; and
- increase multi-year funding commitments targeted towards quality education for displaced children, including in host communities.
Save the Children Australia acting CEO Mat Tinkler said the Child Rights in the Global Compacts policy brief also focused on the need for coordination between nations.
“With more than 65 million people currently on the move, and roughly half of them children, the risks to the safety of the most vulnerable have never been greater,” Tinkler said.
“We congratulate the Australian government on its role in the adoption of the New York Declaration [for refugees and migrants] – now it’s time to show the world that this document can be turned into a more detailed plan and real action, to ensure child refugees and migrants are protected.”
UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said it was critical that Australia worked regionally to develop a coordinated response to irregular migration, including the movement of “desperate asylum seekers”.
“The current crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh highlights the need for the Australian government to engage with other governments in the Asia-Pacific region on this issue,” Stuart said.
“Processes must be put in place that ensure continuity of care for vulnerable children on the move between states, to ensure their survival and development, and protect them from dangers such as smuggling, trafficking and exploitation.”
World Vision Australia CEO Claire Rogers urged Australia to speak up for the rights of children at the upcoming meeting of the UN and in future negotiations on the global compacts.
“We have a special role to play, particularly in this region. We must lead by example, examine our own practices and offer much more support to developing countries who are shouldering most of the responsibility of the global refugee crisis,” Rogers said.