16 July 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/16031

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Amid Unaccompanied Child Migrants’ Flows, Secretary-General Reminds States

 

of Pledge to Protect Fundamental Freedoms, Regardless of Status

 


Following is UN Secretary-General’s message, as delivered by Consuelo Vida, United Nations Resident Coordinator, to the Conference on Unaccompanied Child Migrants, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, today:


I am grateful to the Government of Honduras for hosting this important and timely conference.


I am deeply concerned about the plight of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America — an urgent humanitarian situation affecting tens of thousands of children.  Unaccompanied minors, including those under 7 years of age, are making this dangerous journey, often relying on unscrupulous human smuggling networks that expose them to harm, exploitation and abuse.


In the Declaration of the United Nations High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development last year, Member States “reaffirmed the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, especially those of women and children”.


I therefore call upon the Governments of the countries concerned, whether of origin, transit or destination, to urgently protect the human rights of migrant children, most importantly their life and physical integrity as laid out in relevant international legal standards.


The present situation calls upon us to find compassionate and comprehensive solutions to a number of crucial issues:


First, it is important to address the needs of minors currently in transit or in government custody after crossing an international border.  In all cases, their dignity and human rights must be protected.  It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a particular need to establish robust protection mechanisms for children and other groups affected by violence and impunity in the region.  We also need to prevent and respond to the risk of human trafficking by sensitizing both parents and children about the dangers of irregular, unplanned migration and in relying upon often inaccurate claims and information.


Second, we must better understand and address the root causes behind the current phenomenon.  Poverty and inequality are long-standing issues in the region and lie at the source of established migration patterns.  In addition, we need to grapple with the severe problem of citizen security and the pernicious role of criminal groups in the region forcing countless youths into displacement in search of international protection.  Public security problems have thrived in contexts of weak institutions, poor rule of law and impunity.  Leaders from Central America have drawn repeated attention to this security challenge and have requested international support.  We must all recognize that we have a vested interest in providing such support.


Lastly, we must help countries offer a better and more secure future to their younger generations.  We must support State institutions, public policies and resources in shaping societies that provide opportunities and a life of dignity for our children.


I hope that today’s conference will provide a forum for a well-needed dialogue amongst affected States on how to better protect these vulnerable children.  The United Nations system stands ready to continue supporting you and offer its expertise.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record