Member Countries of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) strengthen dialogue on determining the best interest of migrant children and adolescents
Ana is a 10-year-old Honduran girl who dreams of becoming a teacher. She began her journey to Mexico in the company of adults, but along the way she was left alone. She witnessed robberies and extortion, faced hunger and the lack of a safe place to sleep. When she finally arrived at a shelter in Mexico, the way she was received determined the path her life would take from then on.
On October 26th, 40 representatives of the Member Countries of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) concluded a cycle of virtual sessions for exchange and proposals on the best interest of migrant, refugee and in need of protection children and adolescents. The process, initially planned as an in-person workshop, was virtualized in response to the distancing measures imposed by COVID-19, so that a total of four online sessions were held since March.
These sessions dealt with the challenges imposed by the pandemic, international guidelines and standards for the protection of migrant children and adolescents and how to respond to the challenges previously identified in the region. Among them, there is the necessary cooperation between countries for the care of migrant children, and regarding the assessment of the best interest of the child, to ensure that child protection mechanisms are involved in the process together with migration authorities.
These two sectors, child protection and migration, were thus the main ones invited to join in the process of reflection and collective construction, together with representatives of ministries of foreign affairs, United Nations agencies and civil society organizations.
In the final session, participants discussed the proposal submitted by the United Nations agencies: the "Operational Guide for the Application of the Best Interest of Children in Contexts of Human Mobility". Based on this, elements were shared for future application by the RCM Working Group on Protection and the Member States.
The guide is intended as an operational tool for field officers and first contacts with migrant and refugee children and adolescents, as well as to provide tools and procedures to help ensure the application of the best interest principle in cases of migrant children and adolescents. In this way, girls like Ana will receive consistent assistance that respects their rights and helps them to integrate in the destination countries.
"We consider it important not to lose sight of the cross-cutting mechanisms for unaccompanied minors, abandoned minors, victims of abuse or those who in any way a recognition of the state of their vulnerability. I mean this in a broad sense, even when they come of age, because protection is important to avoid revictimization", said María Isabel Saravia, Deputy Director of Migration in Panama.
This was an interagency effort in which, in addition to IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF and ILO participated. At the IOM, it was part of the Western Hemisphere Program, financed by the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration of the U.S. Department of State. See the different sessions here.