‘Stop Treating Child Migrants as Criminals’ Statement from Save the Children

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

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Dec. 18, 2020) – 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 miles and endured harrowing and life-threatening events, should be treated humanely and in a manner that encourages acceptance, not alienation. The global nonprofit 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 criminalized for wanting a better life. Many, especially those traveling 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 children up in detention centers 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 upheld, respected and protected.

“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.” 

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


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