15 June 2011


Vulnerable Children and Young Migrants on the rise in West Africa - Child Rights Activist

It has been revealed that the number of children and young migrants, who leave their homes in search of jobs and better educational opportunities, only to find them in precarious and dangerous situations in West Africa, has been on the increase.

Making this disclosure at a press conference with journalists, the coordinator of West Africa Network for Swiss Foundation of the International Social Service (ISS) Olivier Geissler said that these children more often than not find themselves in difficult situations far from their families, without any means to continue their journey or return to their countries.

“West Africa sees a lot of movement of people across borders, especially those searching for a way out of poverty or seeking access to basic services such as education or health. From their journey’s start, many of these young people find themselves in precarious situations and fall under the sway of traffickers and other who seek to exploit them. The traffickers see the children as mere merchandise,” he lamented.

This trend of risky migration, he continued, has led to a plethora of other problems in West Africa, namely prostitution, sexual slavery, illegal migration to Europe as well as child labour with its corollaries such as begging and forced military recruitment.

He maintained that his organisation has developed a network of cooperation in West Africa with state partners and civil society to give the necessary support to displaced young individuals who are in difficult situations far from their home and families.

“The project includes identifying the child, his or her protection and psychosocial assessment. We also make a search and evaluation of the family in the country of origin for voluntary return and support for an educational or vocational project and follow-up monitoring over two years. In the past five years, over 1500 children have been reintegrated into their family environment with individualised guidance,” he stated.

This approach, he declared, provides a common procedure by adopting a trans-national South-South innovative project compared to the more traditional North South Dialogue, noting that integration and support of a child does not end at the border but is envisaged as a continuous trans-national guaranteed process.

“The programme is a direct application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). According to its preamble, the child has the right to live and thrive in the midst of his/her people, its culture and its country of origin. The same Convention requires states to give foreigners on their soil the same treatment as their citizens”.

The approach, he elucidated, is based on synergy and strengthening of existing resources at national and international levels, noting that they shall endeavour to involve all partners in the different phases of the project.

“The dynamic cooperation started by this project is developing and growing across the whole sub-region of West Africa. The network currently has eight participating countries and should cover all the fifteen ECOWAS member countries by 2012."

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