Rights of Migrant Children Discussed at ODIHR OSCE Session

ADC Memorial held a side event on humanizing the return of migrant children in the CIS region to their home countries at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on September 20, 2019, the day on which migrants’ rights were examined at this meeting.

ADC Memorial has been leading the #CrossborderChildhood campaign on the rights of migrant children. This campaign addresses the need to replace the outdated criminalizing norms regulating migration for families with children and unaccompanied minors in CIS countries with more contemporary and humane agreements that correspond to the modern international legal framework.

Experts who spoke at this side event came from Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, all countries where migration is a significant and large-scale phenomenon. The experts spoke about how their countries resolve the question of placing migrant children in a facility, return children to their home countries, and provide opportunities for children to communicate with their families, receive an education, and exercise other rights of the child.

Mariana Ianachevici, the expert from Moldova, shared her experience integrating children previously held in the Children’s Reception Center in Chisinau, which is now closed. Replacing the Chisinau Agreement with new norms is particularly urgent for Moldova, which rejects the idea of entrusting the fates of these children to the police and has instead assigned this task to the Ministry of Social Protection. The next speaker was Katerina Budiyanskaya, a representative from the Kiev office of Right to Protection. She explained that even though Ukraine is currently reconsidering its approach to many agreements in connection with its withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States, the system for returning children to their home countries continues to be handled by staff from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The position of human rights defenders in Ukraine is that “the very mechanism for returning children to their home countries is outdated, we must reject transit centers, children shouldn’t even be in these facilities.”

A colleague from Kazakhstan shared her country’s interesting model for national law: the system for holding migrant children and regulating their return has been completely handed over to the Ministry of Education, which manages the juvenile adaptation centers where children are temporarily kept. (Kazakhstan is a receiving country; millions of people, including many children, also travel through it on their way from Central Asia to Russia.) A lawyer from Tashkent then reported on the work of juvenile adaptation centers run by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Uzbekistan.

This discussion was particularly timely considering that many current and former CIS countries are now selecting various models for regulating child migration and are assigning this work to various ministries. This is evidence of a changing reality that no longer corresponds to the old “agreements on cooperation.”

The speakers and participants agreed that more humane norms are needed to protect the rights of migrant children at both the domestic and international levels. Ukraine and Moldova will likely be able to provide an example of this kind of bilateral agreement, and their experience will be useful for all countries, including the Central Asian countries that are most involved in migration.