COPENHAGEN, 5 June 2018 – Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration Nahima Lanjri raised concerns today over reports in the United States that young migrant children are being separated from parents trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as recent news that nearly 1,500 migrant children are unaccounted for in the U.S. due to lax monitoring by the federal government.
Noting that the U.S. government has been separating children from their families and placing them in foster care or in shelters while their parents are held at detention centers awaiting court dates, Lanjri, a member of the Belgian parliament, recalled relevant obligations under international law.
“The controversial practices by the U.S. government of separating children from relatives threaten to undermine international norms that enshrine the right to family unity and call for the best interests of the child to be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children,” she said. “This practice furthermore inflicts additional trauma on children who are already in an extremely vulnerable situation and who depend on their family members for emotional, psychological and material support.”
Lanjri called upon the U.S. and other governments to not only refrain from such practices but to take steps to prevent the separation of children and their relatives at border controls and during any other procedures.
She also raised concerns over recent reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The children had been placed with adult sponsors in the United States but are now unaccounted for.
“Safeguards, including detailed background checks on potential sponsors and regular follow-up calls, must be put into place to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are not trafficked or abused, remain with their sponsors, attend school and show up at their court dates,” Lanjri said.
Ad Hoc Committee member Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the U.S. Congress from Texas, reiterated concerns over the monitoring of migrant children in the United States, noting that it is unacceptable that the department responsible for them cannot account for their whereabouts. “This crisis is not just an immigration matter nor is it just a foreign policy matter; it is a humanitarian crisis,” she said.
The topic of migration and unaccompanied migrant children will feature high on the agenda of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s upcoming Annual Session in Berlin. Last year in Minsk the OSCE PA adopted a resolution on “Ensuring a coherent, shared and responsible governance of migration and refugee flows,” which included a number of recommendations with respect to unaccompanied and separated minors.