Southern Africa Addresses Protection of Unaccompanied Child Migrants
GENEVA, Switzerland, July 21, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM, in collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, UNHCR and UNODC, met in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe earlier this month for a ministerial Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) meeting on mixed and irregular migration, with a special focus on the protection of unaccompanied migrant children.
MIDSA is a regional consultative process that aims to foster dialogue and promote cooperation on migration-related issues. It was established in 2000 with the overall objective of facilitating dialogue and cooperation among SADC Member States and contributing to improved regional migration management.
“Given the migration dynamics and challenges in the SADC region, the theme of the meeting was very timely. The Action Plan adopted by the Ministers and the Secretariat is encouraging as it paves the way for concrete action on migration governance. The outcome declaration document is a good result to mobilize political support and financial resources to build upon the ministerial statements of commitment,” said IOM Chief of Staff Ovais Sarmad.
MIDSA aims to raise awareness of challenges and best practices, and over the past 15 years has put various aspects of migration management on the Southern African agenda, including the protection of vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers travelling in mixed and irregular migratory flows.
In the absence of a mutually agreed legal instrument such as a Regional Migration Protocol, limited formal mechanisms exist in the SADC region to coordinate migration management. Efforts towards effective investigation and prosecution of criminal networks that facilitate migrant smuggling and trafficking of persons have consequently been hampered. The region also faces substantial challenges in ensuring the protection of vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers travelling in mixed migratory flows.
Migration in Africa has become more complex in recent years. In what has become to be known as 'mixed migration,' refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants and other categories of migrant often travel together, using the same transport, employing the services of the same smugglers, and being exposed to the same risks and abuses.
Growing numbers are exposed to severe violations of their human rights, regardless of their status and are in need of assistance. While many migrants move in order to establish new livelihoods, join family members or for educational purposes, others move because they are forced to flee their home countries.
“The current migrant crises we are witnessing around the world have seen the emergence of children as a significant proportion of [irregular] flows, despite fairly developed local and global polices and structures for their protection. As we mark anti-trafficking day later this month, this has become a cause for serious concern which requires urgent and immediate attention from all relevant actors,” says Sarmad. “The protection of the migrant child, who is in a heightened state of vulnerability, must be prioritized and accorded prominence in any migration governance efforts that promote safe, humane and orderly migration for all.”