Lost In Migration Conference: Live Feed

Image: Missing Children Europe

Insite is covering the 2-day conference, organised by Missing Children Europe together with the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.

Insite will be updating a live feed throughout these 2 days of everything being discussed at this important conference, addressing particularly how we can work together in protecting refugee and migrant children from disappearance.

19:02 Panel on Kakuma, The Invisible City closes and everyones heads down for a warm dinner treat! Thank you for following our live feed and make sure to check out the second day of the conference tomorrow for more!

18:55 Replying to an audience question on who procures weapons for the conflicting tribe wars in Africa, Venera Klaus explains that the collective use of voices, visuals and opinions put into perspective can help to develop an action plan. These plans need to restore a sense of control in Europe and we need solutions not in the form of weaponry but in the investment of children where they can receive a placement in their future.

18:50 Gulwali Passarlay recounts his story, how at the age of 12 he left Afghanistan as a refugee with his family. He comments how the camps in which he was kept was not even fit for keeping animals, let alone humans. It then took him 5 years to gain refugee status.

18:48 De Pauw “Isn’t it a failure if international organisations ask for money for people to make calls using the organisation’s phone?”, Corthouts replied that since there are many people in the area, it is not possible for all to get free calls for as long as they want to everyone that they want.

18:46 Ms. Knaus comments how what struck her most was the title of the film “The Invisible City”. 1 in 6 refugees is a child, and they seem to be invisible in policy.

18:43 “With your experience living there, with them, do you see any solution to them disappearing?” Asked Ms. De Pauw to Corthouts. He replies, “Many of them claimed that if they had the money to go to University, they would stay”.

18:40 Mr. Corthouts takes the stand to speak about his experience in Kakuma, “I noticed that the teenagers came to Kakuma for education, and once their education was complete, they moved…and they wanted to go”.

18:36 Four panelists take the stand to discuss the film:

  Lieven Corthouts, self-made filmmaker 
  Verena Knaus, senior policy advisor at UNICEF
  Heidi De Pauw, CEO of child focus and Vice President of Missing Children Europe
  Gulwali Passarlay, Author of 'The Lightless Sky'

The panel will be moderated by Professor Gloria Lauri Lucenti

17:45 We return back into the main room for the screening of the film “Kakuma, the invisible city”.

17:00 Finally some well-needed coffee!

14:00 Now participants are invited to separate into three living library themes: “Arrival: Identification and reception conditions”, “On the move: protection across states and effective guardianship systems”, and “Inclusion and participation in society: reaching adulthood, emancipation and empowerment”.

13:06 Time for lunch, and a well-deserved break from the discussions!

12:59 Vautmans: If I would have been born in Syria, I would also sit on the boat to look for a better life. We have to look for legal ways of migration.

12:56 Thompson: The key is to address the root causes. We are discussing here the consequences, and the steps we need to take to address them. Sometimes the best interest of the child is not to be with the family, so we have to look at the context of where the child is coming from. Each case has to be analysed individually, and it is extremely difficult to take administrative decisions based on individual cases.

12:55 Cochetel: We do need to break the business of smugglers, but we also have to look at what’s happening outside of that circle. It’s a visible trade, so more closure simply provide more business for smugglers.

12:52 Questions from the floor are now open. Audience member: Europe is experiencing a political crisis and not a migration crisis. We have enough money and resources to host these unaccompanied minors. Citenzship is trumping human right, but is not the case that the system has been imploding and then collapsed last year? How can we get to the root of the problem? Smugglers should be punished, but states should be punished as well for violating human rights.

12:44 Hilde Vautmans (MEP): We have to work on the 3 levels: The local level, we have to share good practice of all centres. The national level, people on the field need to work with the police. The civil society level, we need to all pressure politicians in our own countries to put these important issues on the agenda. The 10,000 missing children on the agenda are being set aside, and we need to come together and put it on the political agenda as soon as possible. Criminals cannot get away with what they are doing right now to these children.

12:36 Cochetel: It is 2017, and we still don’t have a common registration system in Europe. Many children in European countries are ending up in detention centres because their systems are not fast enough, and this needs to be properly addressed. We also need to be more creative and all-encompassing with our solutions, and allowing family reunions must be prioritised at all times. We are not even trying to work towards integration, and instead trying to conceal all arising problems.

12:34 Vincent Cochetel (UNHCR): Best interest is imperative in every stage of protecting unaccompanied minors. There’s no shortage of laws and procedures in Europe, but we need more practical and operational help from civil society to put change into effect.

12:32 Thompson: Of the 25,000 children that arrived in Italy only a few thousands are eligible for protection if they are lucky. Relocation through Dublin is good, but it’s not enough. Children who lose trust in the system, we will have lost completely. We need to create a system that identifies who these children are, and quickly, but also give them alternative possibilities to detention, allow them to find legal pathways to re-unify with there families, and harmonise present systems.

12:28 Ambassador Laura Thompson (IOM): We need to first see all the realities of the need of protection. We know there are thousands of unaccompanied minors all over, but we don’t know who they are and exactly how many. When they are identified they end up being put in a detention centre. No child should be put in a detention centre, ever.

12:20 Morillo: Minors are always the most vulnerable. The low amount of minors being granted protection in Europe at the moment is scandalously low. It’s now time for another panel before lunch, moderated by Hanne Behrens (Migration Policy Institute).

12:16 Bissell: Agenda 2030 agreed it cares about the planet and its people no matter where they are. These new set of sustainable development goals, that have been set into action this year, talk about goals in relation to security for children in all aspects. This global partnership I am currently leading, we want to keep children safe from all forms of harm and accelerate action in keeping children secure. We need to strengthen collaboration between European states and also include the private sector and civil society.

12:13 Millet: We need to ask why smuggling exists in the first place, and why children are seeking smugglers rather than the state for safety. We often chase these criminal activities, but we rarely ask why these activities exist in the first place.

12:09 Morillo: Not only must we solve the most immediate problems. We can no longer blame and shame. We need to see ourselves what we can implement better.

12:05 Moderator: Funding often gets lost in bureaucracy. How should funding me analysed? Murillo: The most important thing is not to say that we are doing our best and spending a lot of money on migrant protection. We are working on a more global strategy on this question of funding. At the moment we are working in a manner which is too short-term. We must put all our capacities onto the table.

12:02 Bissell: We need to go way back to the basics when it comes to dealing with the issue of false documentation. Because of absence of protection for children in the home country and en route, children keep going through the same issues over and over again. The gaps are all along the route and touch upon every single aspect of child protection.

11:59 Wainwright: There is an important difference between smuggling and trafficking, with the latter being larger in volume. Let’s not merge the two, especially via the media.

11:56 Wainwright: Across the board, our fight against modern human trafficking in the ambit of migration is definitely picking up pace, although there is still more to be done.

11:54 The moderators pose this statement to the panel, that has been going around during the conference: there are 10,000 missing children lost in migration. The panellists are being asked to discuss this statement in accordance to current realities.

11:50 We are back for the next panel discussion, which will be moderated by Federica Toscano (Missing Children Europe) and Nicholas Millet (Refugee Education Chios). The panellists include Susan Bissell (Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children), Rob Wainwright (Director Europe), Francisco Fonseca Morillo (Deputy Director General, DG Justice) and Afshan Khan (incoming UNICEF Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe).

11:10 It is now time for a coffee break before we proceed for another panel discussion. Stay tuned!

11:07 Julian Chircop from Insite speaks from the floor: we need more people like the panellists to speak out to students and organisations since they are the next generation who can improve the current situation. If we do not understand what you need, and what you deserve to have because of your rights, we cannot help you.

11:03 Said: The current system to give unaccompanied minors protection is very stressful for us because it’s too lengthy.

11:02 Ibrahim: education is key, as well as giving unaccompanied minors the opportunity to be in contact with their families back home.

11:01 Another person from the audience remarked how we mustn’t forget about people’s humanity, and that listening to stories as has just happened during this session, is as important as coming up with ideas to solve the current situation.

10:59 Following this moderated session, questions are being welcomed from the floor. The first intervention from the audience is by someone who requested for more time to be given throughout the conference to generate ideas.

10:57 Micallef and the panellists request the audience to join them in a minute of silence in solidarity with all unaccompanied minors who have been lost in migration.

10:54 Gwedeb: We need a better reception in place than a detention centre for unaccompanied minors. We also need to educate everyone involved on the type of protection needed for these children. So there needs to be more synergy between NGOs and the government. Finally, I hope everyone starts putting humanity first and feel the pain experienced by people like us. People in power need to provide such children with the ability to speak out and be proactive.

10:53 Elaine Micallef mentions an initiative that was taken by H.E. The President on one particular occasion where a group of unaccompanied migrant children were not sent to detention when they arrived in Malta from Italy.

10:51 Gwedeb: I have many ideas to voice out that Europe can do to make it better for unaccompanied children to not get lost in the system.

10:49 Gwedeb: I was adopted by a Maltese family, and they have given me the necessary support and care to make a life for myself, study and work.

10:46 Gwedeb: I have been living in Malta now since 2002, and I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. But I know mothers still in their home country who have no idea what has happened to their children after they migrated, and who ask but never get answers.

10.43 Another panellist (Gwedeb): I had spent a lot of time in unjust detention. When I came there was no structure in Malta for unaccompanied minors in place. So a group of us carried out a hunger strike for several days, which brought attention from the Maltese government.

10.36 Said: I would like to talk about the protection. When I came to Malta I was 16 years old. I passed from many countries and I didn’t get the help from other countries that I got from Malta. So I would like to thank Malta a lot. I have a chance now. I would like to study now. I spoke to my social worker Anton who’s working on MCAST and he asked me on my status because I would like to start education and move to work. However, my social worker told me I don’t have the rights to do so. I am still hopeful that I will be able to get this. I have been working very hard to be able to get education.

10:33 Said: I would like to study to improve my future, because in the past I have struggled to study while I was in Malta because I was stressed about what my status was. I was rejected from getting the status for protection twice. Here I found a lot of help from my social worker Antoine, who helped me to find a job and invest my money. Now I work at the Mater Dei Hospital cafeteria. Getting this job helped not feel alone anymore, I found I could finally integrate and have friends.

10:27 Another panellist (Said): When I first came to Malta aged 16 I did not want to stay, but now I enjoy living here and I have many people to thank for where I am now, especially the social workers. We were given €7 a week, which was not enough to even make calls back home.

10:24 Jama: Children in our situation go through even more stress once they leave their home country, because they have to do everything in secret and cannot seek help from anyone. Europe should give these children what they deserve; the humane life that they want and need.

10:17 Another panellist (Jama): I came to Malta from Somalia aged 16, with a group of people as young as 12. Children in our same situation have to travel with fake documents, and this had to happen even if it was dangerous. If a person wants to change his home to change his life, they are not guaranteed protection or safety.

10:14 Ibrahim: My friend Abdi (aged 15) who was in Malta with me wanted to study but when he was in Malta he started working to save up for a ticket to go to Germany since he did not want to stay in Malta. He was so overcome with stress, because was not allowed to go to Germany, that he decided to end his life.

10:10 Ibrahim: I was very stressed from my time in detention, and I did not get the protection I was expecting. It it was also very difficult to see how I could reunite with my family.

10:02 Panellist (Ibrahim): We had fled from Somalia as a group, the youngest being aged 13. Some of them died at sea, others in hospital. When I arrived in Malta, I felt tension. I was not expecting to be put straight into detention after thinking I had found freedom.

09:59 Following the video testimonials, a panel of 4 adults, who were unaccompanied minors when they migrated to Malta, will be sharing their experiences.

09:50 Farah Abdi (in a video testimonial): I did not want to stay in Malta, but I was restricted by current policy because Malta was my country of arrival.

09:46 Elaine Micallef (psychotherapist) will now be leading a moderated discussion with adults who will be sharing their experiences as unaccompanied children in Malta. Being shown now are video testimonials by some of the adults who couldn’t attend the conference, including author and activist Farah Abdi.

09:45 Buquicchio: Our conference is not just a talking shop, we can and will make a difference, making headlines and not footnotes, and headlines of hope rather than despair. All children have the right to have rights.

09:42 Buquicchio: A European-coordinated framework is needed to yield effective and consistent results. It should ensure that all children are protected during their whole migratory journey. The current lack of coordination is leading to fragmentation and even contradiction. For any European strategy to work or even be agreed upon, national levels need to follow and even lead the way if needed.

09:40 Buquicchio: Problems are exacerbated when children lack identity documents, together with the lack of training of relevant professionals at all levels.

09:38 Buquicchio: The CRC should be the canvas on which any policy relating to children is drawn. Only such an approach can prevent children from being lost in migration. They cannot wait, they have to be protected as the children that they are at all times. 30% of all people seeking protection in Europe are children, a majority of them under the age of 14.

09:36 Buquicchio: We have gathered over 150 experts from Europe and beyond, with the help of H.E. The President, to attend this event.

09:34 Buquicchio: refugee and migrants children often fall through the cracks when temporary needs are addressed but not their long-term needs.

09:32 Following Her Excellency’s speech, it is time for the President of Missing Children Europe to take the stand; Maud de Boer Buquicchio.

09:31 Her Excellency: Together we can create a European approach to migration that respects and secures the dignity of vulnerable children.

09:30 Her Excellency: I hope that Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the EU will provide opportunities for us to commit to a unified European action plan that benefits unaccompanied migrant children.

09:27 Her Excellency: Article 7 of the CRC enshrines a child’s right to nationality. This is being denied to vulnerable children by our very systems, which should be protecting their rights.

09:26 Her Excellency: It is a source of shame that in 2017, as many as 10,000 refugee children are missing. We must do all that we can to prevent vulnerable children from going missing.

09:25 Her Excellency: The lack of a unified and effective policy that can provide for the safety of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in Europe, is proof of the lack of solidarity which is at the root of our concern.

09:23 Her Excellency: We cannot allow the fundamental rights of children to be compromised. The dignity of children cannot be a fairytale. It must be a lived reality experienced by every child who forms part of our global family.

09:22 Her Excellency: Many countries are still not equipped to effectively address the growing numbers of refugees and migrants. As a result, social tensions are increasing.

09:21 Her Excellency: wellbeing of migrant children must be a top priority on our national and global agendas, especially because the phenomenon of migration will only increase over time.

09:19 Her Excellency: thanks to Missing Children Europe, we have a much-needed opportunity to highlight the uncertainty faced by the thousands of children who go missing as a result of migration.

09:17 Delphine Moralis (Secretary General, Missing Children Europe) introduces H.E. President Marie Louise Coleiro.

09:14 Dr. Farrugia: Children all have the right to be safe. Uncertainty increases the risk of children going missing. It is therefore important to create safe and respectful spaces together.

09:10 The conference is about to start, first with an opening address by Dr. Ruth Farrugia (Director General of the President’s Foundation).

09:00 Registration is underway, and the Insite team is ready to start covering the first day of this conference. Stay tuned!

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