The UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF announced Friday in Mexico the launch of the Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children and Adolescents in Migration project.
The initiative seeks to strengthen care and protection structures for children and adolescents in situations of human mobility in Mexico, El Salvador, Zambia and South Africa, and is funded with seven million euros from the European Union. This South-South cooperation project involves an exchange of knowledge and good practices between countries over the next 30 months.
In Mexico, the project will continue to promote the recent reform of the Migration Law and the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum, by strengthening protection systems to improve alternative care options, and reinforcing the reception capacities of families with children and adolescents, the mental health response and psychosocial support, and the prevention of violence against children and adolescents in a situation of mobility.
The plan will be implemented in the Mexican states of Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Veracruz in collaboration with the federal and state governments, and in coordination with various institutions and civil society organizations.
"The rights of all migrant children and adolescents travel with them and must be protected everywhere and at all times. In order to strengthen the bodies and mechanisms responsible for protecting them, including providing care options and psycho-emotional support, the combined efforts of all sectors involved are necessary," said UNICEF Representative in Mexico Christian Skoog.
During 2019, Mexican authorities identified approximately 52,000 children and adolescents in a situation of human mobility.
Along their journey, these minors face various types of risks and violence, such as sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment by trafficking networks or organised crime, family separation, abuse, extortion or kidnapping, among other abuses. At the same time, they face a variety of obstacles in accessing their rights and adequate international protection mechanisms, regardless of whether they are travelling with their families or unaccompanied.
"The number of asylum-seeking children has increased globally and also in Mexico. However, many of the children and adolescents arriving in Mexico and in need of international protection are not identified as refugees. They are particularly vulnerable to various risks during displacement. The launch of this project is very timely and will provide important support in the implementation of the recent legal reform that prohibits all immigration detention of children and adolescents," said the UN Refugee Agency Representative in Mexico, Mark Manly.
Although the closure of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought down the numbers, the scenario for children on the move has become even more vulnerable, due to confinement and reduced access to basic services such as health and education, limitations in a large number of shelters and restrictions on access to protection measures.
However, the migration flow has increased again over the past three months setting new challenges. "This initiative of UNICEF and UNHCR, in favour of the protection of migrant children and adolescents, joins other projects sponsored by the European Union in Mexico in favour of the rights of migrants that seek the integration of people in need of international protection through work, assistance and recognition of the rights of migrants, their care in emergency situations, human trafficking and attention to the causes of migration in the countries of origin," said Jean-Pierre Bou, Deputy Ambassador of the European Union.