Middle East, Europe

French NGOs demand UN probe into unaccompanied minors

NGOs refer violation of rights of unaccompanied minors by France to UN Committee on Children’s Rights

Shweta Desa   | 04.05.2021
French NGOs demand UN probe into unaccompanied minors Migrants are seen as they wait in a line to receive food aid in Calais, France on February 25, 2021 ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )

PARIS 

French non-profit organizations on Monday demanded the UN Committee on Child Rights to launch an investigation into violations of the rights of unaccompanied minors in the country, most of whom are foreigners. 

The French Council of Associations for the Rights of the Child (Cofrade) alongside other civic and rights associations referred a proposal to the UN committee to make recommendations for the protection of the rights of these children, said a statement from Utopia 56, an association working to help migrants.

The statement added that as a signatory state to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, France is obliged to care for the unaccompanied minors within its territory.

Legally, the term “unaccompanied minor” is not recognized. In 2016, France’s Ministry of Justice defined it as “either a minor who has entered France without being accompanied by an adult and who is temporarily or definitively deprived of the protection of their family, or a minor who has been left alone in France.”

Such cases fall under the scope of child welfare and the state is bound by law to protect them irrespective of their nationality, as they are minors and in dangerous situations. According to 2017 data from the French Justice Ministry’s unaccompanied minors department, there were 14,908 minors in the care of departmental councils, up from 4,000 in 2010.

Young unaccompanied foreign nationals arriving in France face tough problems in getting recognition for their minority status, and provincial level child protection services often refuse to shelter them, according to a 2019 report by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

As a result, thousands of these minors, with no family and friends, are forced into homelessness or have to rely on the help of citizens' associations and NGOs. The majority of such minors, MSF said, are from Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire or Afghanistan.

The referral to the UN notes two major violations by authorities: denial of minority status depriving them of the national child protection system and their unequal treatment.

“Any minor present on French territory should be covered under the charge of child protection of the French public authorities,” the statement said.

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