Chapter 4: A child rights framework for assessing the status of refugee children
International law has played an important role in advancing the rights of refugee children. As Beth Simmonds has argued, international law provides a ‘rights-based framework to supplement the protective framework that has a much longer history in many societies’ and a ‘lever to give … would-be advocates influence over policies likely to have an important impact on the well-being of those who are not able to organize and speak for themselves’. Since the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child – which arose out of a concern about the particular problems faced by children during and subsequent to war – the need to prioritize the protection of refugee children has been repeatedly affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The international community has also adopted two treaties that respond independently to the particular difficulties occasioned by involuntary alienage and to the special care and assistance required by children: the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Attentiveness at the international level to the distinct needs of refugee children has not always found a counterpart in domestic practice. At the domestic level there has been a tendency for states to focus on a child’s status as a migrant (inevitably enlivening discourses of suspicion and immigration control) rather than their status as a child (more likely to evoke discourses of welfare and protection).
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