Vatican: Failure to protect child migrants an insult to human dignity

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Too often, national and international policies leave
migrant children at the mercy of traffickers and sexual predators and are signs
of a widespread failure to protect the innocent, a Vatican official said.

addition, policies that involve criminalizing and detaining child migrants “are
an insult to human dignity” and are “the dramatic evidence of
existing inequalities and failing systems,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic,
Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

“The grave
error of the detention model is that it considers the children as sole,
isolated subjects responsible for the situations in which they find themselves
and over which they have little, if any, control,” the archbishop said. “This
model wrongly absolves the international community at large from
responsibilities that it regularly fails to fulfill.”

Archbishop Jurkovic spoke about the plight of child migrants during a U.N. Human Rights Council
panel discussion June 9
on “Unaccompanied migrant children
and adolescents and human rights.”

Children forced to
flee without the protection of their parents or family members, he said, are given
no options for a better life and are often “left at the lower levels of
human degradation” due to lack of education and health care.

“They must be
considered children first and foremost, and their best interest must be a
primary consideration in all actions concerning them,” Archbishop Jurkovic

The practice of detaining and criminalizing migrant children should “never be an
option” given that such a practice, even if for a brief period, “can
have lifelong consequences on a child’s development,” he said.

While the protection
of all migrating
people is “vital and essential, it is not enough,” Archbishop
Jurkovic added. The international community must step up its efforts to address the situations that
force children to flee their homelands, situations that include war,
violence, corruption, poverty and environmental disasters.

“A farsighted approach is
urgently needed to tackle the tragic and intolerable situations that drive such
a drastic increase in the number of children who abandon their lands of birth
and search alone for refuge and hope for the future,” he said.

Archbishop Jurkovic
urged world leaders to promote an integral human development for the
“hundreds of millions of children who are living in appalling

“Even while we
are engaged in discussion and debate today, any number of these children will
have joined the already huge odyssey of children on the move — simply in
search of safety, peace
and of a fair chance in life,” he said.

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Twitter: @arochoju.

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