Protecting Migrant Children
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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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Chapter 9: Defending migrant children and youth in the inter-American system

Carlos Holguín and Kavita Kapur


The ‘surge’ of Central American families and children arriving at the US southern border in the summer of 2014 prompted the United States to adopt a policy of detaining Central American families indefinitely in order to deter other youth and families fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (known collectively as the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA)) from seeking refuge in the United States. This policy disproportionately affects youth who are particularly vulnerable to the endemic gang violence that plagues NTCA countries. In light of the limitations on challenging this policy in US courts, this chapter explores the role of the inter-American system in protecting the human rights of migrant children and youth. In this chapter, we summarize the inter-American Treaties and Conventions we think speak most forcefully to governments that would deny Central American children and youth the right to refuge or other international protection. We then discuss the jurisdiction and procedures of the institutions charged with promoting adherence to the inter-American human rights framework. Finally, we describe recent examples of advocacy within the inter-American system we hope will illustrate the potential and limitations of this system as a tool to advocate for adolescentes en el camino (migrant adolescents).

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