SOS Children’s Villages CEO, Norbert Meder, calls on governments to abide by their obligations to protect refugee children.
INNSBRUCK, Austria – “With children accounting for about half of global refugees, governments urgently need to protect refugee children,” says Norbert Meder, the Chief Executive Officer of SOS Children’s Villages International.
The number of refugees reached 25.9 million worldwide in 2018, 500,000 more than in 2017, says the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in its annual Global Trends report. In 2018, every second refugee was a child, and 111,000 of these children were alone and without their families.
“Refugee children continue to be separated from families, held in overcrowded camps without access to adequate education, healthcare, or sanitation, and in some cases are detained,” says Mr Meder. “Children’s rights must never be compromised, regardless of the status of the child.”
Mass displacement has grown at a record-setting pace for years, driven by conflict and social unrest. “In many of today’s displacement crises, children face a disproportionate risk of separation from their families, loss of loved ones, and violence,” Mr Meder says. “Under such circumstances, it is unacceptable that we continue to pursue laws and policies that fail refugee children, further victimising those who have endured experiences that could traumatise them for the rest of their lives.”
The growing destructiveness of natural disasters also contributes to displacement within countries as well as forcing people to seek refuge away from their homeland.
“We are seeing a combination of climate-related disasters and human-made crises drive more people out of their homes. This takes a particular toll on children and families already living on the edge of society,” Mr Meder says. “There are many cases of communities opening their hearts to refugees and people in need. But there needs to be more investment in building resilient communities and strengthening vulnerable families – those often the most exposed to disaster and conflict.”
A milestone in children’s rights
This year marks a significant milestone in the recognition of children’s rights, including those in refugee situations. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted by the United Nations on 20 November 1989, enshrines in international law the right of every child to be treated with respect, dignity and equality, and to be protected from exploitation, sexual abuse and neglect. It obliges governments to protect and provide for children, and to help them reach their full potential.
“As we mark World Refugee Day, we remind governments of their responsibility under the CRC to treat children with compassion and dignity, regardless of their citizenship or refugee status,” says Mr Meder. “Caring for children means protecting them from harm and ensuring they have a home, school, and the opportunity to grow up with their loved ones whenever possible. These rights are non-negotiable. These are not merely obligations, they are simply the right thing to do.”
More about World Refugee Day
The UN General Assembly voted to designate 20 June as World Refugee Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the Refugee Convention in 2001. The Refugee Convention, Geneva Conventions (Protocol I), and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child all recognise the vulnerability of children and outline special treatment for minors in harm’s way.
About SOS Children's Villages
SOS Children's Villages is the world’s largest non-governmental organisation focused on supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it. Founded in 1949 as a non-denominational organisation, today we have a presence in 136 countries and territories.
Our work is anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. We operate more than 2,600 locally led programmes, directly reaching more than a million children, young people and families. We partner with donors, communities, governments and other organisations to reach the children and young people who need support, and we advocate for governments to uphold their obligations with regard to children’s rights.