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Isabel Martinez

Based on years of archival research, primary interviews and observations across myriad sites including schools, homes and courts in Puebla, Mexico, New York City, and south Texas, this chapter places children’s migrations into a socio-historical context so that this phenomenon can be better understood as a byproduct of seemingly endless US (and foreign) interventions. Largely subsumed into accounts of adult and family migration where minors were assumed to simply be ‘luggage’ or following their parents, the trickles of independent teenage migrants that came before today’s waves have mostly gone ignored. Entitled to economic and physical security with and away from their families, these youths have actively responded to the ebbs and flows of interventions in their countries by immigrating for nearly a century; today’s Mexican and Central American teenage migrants are simply making the old new again.

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Arezo Malakooti

In this chapter I will provide an overview of the global data on child migration, and explore how and why children travel in the regions covered by the various contributors to this book. At the outset, I acknowledge that data on international migration is not particularly precise or reliable. Statistics in many regions are scarce or non-existent, so that numbers are generally based on estimates. Specific data on child migration is even more difficult to come by. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) in its Global Trends Report 2015, only a few countries supply refugee data disaggregated by age. In 2015, data disaggregated by age was available for 21.2 million people only, which represented 33 per cent of the estimated global number of refugees. In this chapter I draw heavily on the ground-breaking report prepared by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2015, Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children, which represents a laudatory effort to compile all of the data then available on the topic of children on the move around the world.

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Agnes Olusese, Shamm Petros and Edwin Odhiambo Abuya

Humanitarian emergencies and displacement usually leads to disruption of families, which augments the vulnerability of children, exposing them to increased risks of sexual and labor exploitation, abuse and violence as they are separated from their care-givers. Kenya receives a significant number of refugees annually with a sizable portion being unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). In Kenya, a lack of sufficient and well-monitored alternative care options results in gaps that allow for the abuse and exploitation of refugee UASC, especially in urban areas where regulation by agencies is not as strict as it is in refugee camps. UASC in urban areas are largely cared for by non-profit and non-governmental organizations involved in child protection, with the government playing a minimal role. Unlike UASC in camp settings, UASC in urban settlements are marginalized by policy and social tensions, resulting in limited access to livelihood and protection services. Alternative care-givers are generally unverified, unmonitored and spread out all over the peri-urban areas, which complicates supervision and reporting efforts. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays a coordinating role with refugee children but their oversight is mainly on activities undertaken by implementing partners. Refugee children who end up in informal arrangements are not regularly supervised and are easily exploited and abused by their care-givers.

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Mary Anne Kenny and Maryanne Loughry

This chapter considers the procedures used where there are disputes about the chronological age of an unaccompanied or separated child seeking asylum. The chapter considers how age is interpreted in terms of what it means to be a ‘child’ in the legal, social and cultural sense. Current methods of age assessment in different countries are considered against the international human rights framework. The chapter proposes a different approach to the contested area of age disputes that recognizes young people’s ‘transition’ into adulthood and posits that agencies and governments should provide support and services on the basis of assessed needs and vulnerabilities of the individual rather than on an assessed chronological age.

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Daniel Ghezelbash

This chapter explores the phenomenon of legal transfers in the area of immigration detention and their impact on child migrants. It uses as a case study the apparent borrowing of these regressive immigration control measures between the United States and Australia. It also examines the subsequent spread of progressive case management alternatives to detention (ATD) models.

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Mimi Zou

Within the scholarly and policy discourses on the regulation of child labour in China, the focus has been on the period of rapid industrialization since the opening up and reform of China’s economy in recent decades. However, there have been very few studies that have situated the evolution of China’s legal framework to address child labour issues in a historical context. This chapter fills this important void by examining how child labour practices were regulated in imperial China and the development of laws from the nineteenth century onwards that sought to address what was perceived by society as the worst forms of such practices. These historical insights aim to shed light on the social, economic and cultural factors that have shaped the quest to end child labour in the world’s largest industrializing economy. At the same time, the country’s rapid industrialization and urbanization over the past three decades have seen new social problems arising from mass rural-to-urban migration that create particular risks of child labour for children of rural migrant workers.

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Geraldine Sadoway

Canada has no national policy to take care of separated refugee children . . . Separated refugee children seem to fall into the gap between federal responsibility for immigration and provincial responsibility for youth protection.1 The Committee [CRC] urges the State party to bring its immigration and asylum laws into full conformity with the Convention and other relevant international standards and reiterates its previous recommendations (CTC/C/15/ Add.215, para. 47, 2003). There are many examples of children and youth who travel alone or with friends, separated from parents or legal guardians, to reach a safe place such as Canada in order to escape danger in their home country.3 According to recent estimates, as many as 3,000 unaccompanied children arrive in Canada seeking refugee status every year.4 Sometimes the children are orphans, or have become separated from their parents due to war or civil unrest. Sometimes the parents (or one of the parents) are the source of danger to the child. Some young people have fled their homes due to abuse by a parent or relative and they cannot obtain effective protection from the authorities in their own country. Children may be victims of illegal trafficking groups or may be targeted for kidnapping in order to extort money from parents or relatives who have travelled abroad to seek employment. Sometimes very young children are sent out of the home country by their parents with friends or relatives or with paid agents, in order to save the life of the child due to serious dangers facing the entire family in the home country, or in the country of first asylum.5 Although there is no single explanation for the fact that children are crossing international borders on their own, it is very clear that such children constitute an extremely vulnerable group of migrants that require special measures of protection.

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Catriona Jarvis and Syd Bolton

Case law, legislation and policies concerning migrant and refugee children have on the whole developed positively in the United Kingdom, particularly since the withdrawal in 2009 of its immigration reservations against the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In practice, however, the implementation of these standards and responsibilities has been undermined by the UK government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach to border control measures, restrictions on access to justice and legal aid. Laws intended to enable the admission of asylum-seeking children to the United Kingdom from continental Europe, including for family reunion, have been dilatory. A sceptical, contingent approach to child refugee status determination leaves children in a position of temporary rather than enduring protection. This approach conflicts with the rights, needs and interests of migrant and refugee children living in or seeking to enter the United Kingdom, who now also face an increasingly uncertain future as the United Kingdom embarks on the process to leave the European Union following the ‘Brexit’ referendum result in 2016.

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Protecting Migrant Children

In Search of Best Practice

Edited by Mary Crock and Lenni B. Benson

Unprecedented numbers of children are crossing international borders seeking safety. Framed around compelling case studies explaining why children are on the move in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, this book explores the jurisprudence and processes used by nations to adjudicate children’s protection claims. The book includes contributions from leading scholars in immigration, refugee law, children’s rights and human trafficking which critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of international and domestic laws with the aim of identifying best practice for migrant children.
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Lenni B. Benson and Claire R. Thomas

In theory, United States immigration statutes offer many forms of protection and integration to foreign national youth. In practice, however, the ability of young people to access relevant special visa categories is frustrated by process barriers and the lack of adequate information and skilled counsel. Under US law, migrant children may seek protection as refugees; they may qualify for permanent residence if they have been abandoned, abused or neglected by a parent; they may be protected if victims of crimes or trafficking. In this chapter, we explore whether US domestic legal systems protect children’s procedural rights. We note at the outset that the US Constitution has been applied consistently to protect both citizen and foreign-born children with regard to fundamental rights such as education, safety and criminal punishment. Between October 2010 and October 2016, the US government initiated 177,561 removal or deportation cases against children. Of these, 41 per cent or 73,013 cases remained pending in mid-2017. This suggests that children are given time and process in removal proceedings. In this chapter we examine some of the reasons why ‘due process’ does indeed require time, as we explore measures that would greatly reduce the procedural protections that have been available.