Delivering her closing remarks, at the end of the Lost in Migration III conference, organized by Missing Children Europe and The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, the President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said that this conference had once again pinpointed the lacunae in our current systems, including a lack of training and coordination, at national and cross-border levels, which are still preventing the necessary holistic progress, to create a safe environment for migrating children.
She said that this year’s commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is a golden opportunity to highlight the importance of safeguarding and empowering all of our children, in particular vulnerable children, including those in migration. The President stated that the recommendations of the previous editions of this conference, and this year’s conference “have provided sufficient recommendations and guidelines to put the relevant policies and safeguards in place, to provide the protection that each and every child, whoever they might be and wherever they might come from, rightfully deserve.”
“I augur that the visibility we have created over the past days, and during the previous editions of this conference will not be lost”
On the fact that unaccompanied young migrant people were provided with the necessary space to “bravely shared their horrendous experiences of precarity, abuse, and persecution which they have endured”, President Coleiro Preca expressed her hope that this effort, will be further intensified by creating a network through which such space can be regularly provided, whilst quoting one of the participants during yesterday’s panel discussion who said that “refugees aren’t often given a space where they can speak about their sufferings, and affect policies and decisions. This why today’s space, at this conference, is so important for us.”
Another comment, which she said, will always be at the forefront of her thoughts, was shared yesterday as well, when one of the young people during the panel said that a parent would only put their children in the boat when they think that water is safer than land.
“We must continue to strengthen this network, so that their narratives will be a powerful way of influencing and transforming our European communities,” President Coleiro Preca whilst adding that she hoped that this conference will provoke the necessary response from the relevant authorities, to ensure that migrating children are given the much-needed protection.
“We must, as civil society, also support those politicians who share our values to be brave, to uphold child protection, including the protection of migrating children.”
The President said that she could identify with Ms Hilde Vautmans, MEP, who very strongly and courageously showed her determination at this particular time, when she needs popularity to be successful during the European Elections, to stand firmly for her values.
She stated that as civil society, “we must lobby with the candidates in our respective countries, and give our support to those of them who are working to ensure that each and every child can enjoy her or his rightful dignity,” adding that in this way, we will be investing in a European Parliament which can deliver the meaningful reform of our child protection systems. The President said this in light of what was stated by Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, who said that “we have a shrinking protection space” for children in migration.
“Unfortunately, our legal frameworks are not adequately providing systematic child protection, and in the process, the contravention of the Human Rights for countless children is continuing. These contraventions are evidence of systematic failures, which do not provide the standards of care that the international community is duty bound to provide,” President Coleiro Preca said.
“Our precious dialogue for peace, for solidarity, and for respectful friendship-building are being attacked.”
She spoke of the concerns, raised by many participants during the conference, about the increase in populist rhetoric which is being experienced both in Europe, and in other parts of the world stating that “we are being bombarded with hate speech, exclusionary tactics, and as a result, we are witnessing an escalation of social tensions.”
The President said that the normalization of fear and hatred can only be addressed when we are brave, and speak out, to push for action, and called for the continued creation of safe spaces, like this conference and others, where human rights are valued, as central to our aspiration, and where the truth can be shared freely.
“We must support each other, as civil society across Europe. We must be there for each other, in solidarity. We must continue to endeavour, in synergy and solidarity, so as to ensure that the unfortunate missing generation of migrant children, who have been exposed to the promises of our democratic way of life but were not given the proper protection on our soils, does not grow bigger,” she said.
“The participation of children and young people who have first-hand experiences of migration continues to be essential.”
The President stated that such participation will give a more accurate perspective of what it means to be migrating child, attempting to enter Europe, “so as to address the gaps in our protection systems,” whilst once again quoting what a young refugee from Syria said, that “most of the decisions being made are affecting young people, yet we don’t see young people participating in these decisions. If young people do not participate, then people will make assumptions and have misconceptions about our situations. Talking to people about your first-hand experience makes a difference.”
President Coleiro Preca called for the continued intensification of “our endeavours for child and youth participation,” as it is her belief that this is the next level that needs to be achieved in Europe.
“Child and youth participation must become part-and-parcel of our structures of democratic participation, for the benefit of all the children of Europe and the world,” the President concluded.