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Collaborative Refugee and Rights Information Center (CRRIC)

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Research Abstracts

Children's Rights



International Migration, 2004, vol. 42, no. 1, pp.141-148(7)

Bhabha J.

Abstracted by Elizabeth Ervin

The legal effectiveness of protection provided for children asylum seekers is the article’s central focus. Children make up a significant proportion of the global refugee movement. At least 50 percent travel with their families and a smaller number of children who have been separated from their families travel alone. These children face distinct problems from adults because they are rarely given asylum seeker or refugee status. The problem particularly associated with this group is child trafficking, a political issue of recent notoriety. Because displaced children are not readily given refugee status, they become especially susceptible to dangerous and discriminatory practices. The loophole through which they fall is the legal language provided within the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The normative assumption has been that the provisions within this convention only apply to adults. Thus, “children are treated differently rather than equally.” This creates invisibility of children’s concerns and issues under international law. The author’s emerging research will concentrate on answering the following questions: What has been the impact of the 1951 Convention on children traveling alone? Is child persecution and discrimination being ignored or emphasized? And who or which agency has provided the most assistance/deterrence to the problem issue area?



Film: 2008

Directors: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Producers: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Distributor: Velocity/Thinkfilm

Runtime: 107 minutes

Abstracted by Ellen Jorgensen

“Our story is difficult to hear, but if we don’t tell you, you won’t know it.” This is the sentiment presented by three orphans in Patongo, Uganda. Patongo is a war displacement camp where over 50,000 people live under twenty-four hour military protection from the Lords Resistance Rebel Army that hides in the bush. In this documentary, the cameras follow the lives of three remarkable teenage children of the Acholi tribe: Rose, Dominic, and Nancy. Their tribe has been suffering from over 20 years of violence in which thousands of children have been abducted, orphaned, and forced to live in government camps. To make matters worse, these children are constantly reminded of the horrors they have experienced and human rights abuses they have witnessed. They live in a constant state of fear as refugees in the camp.

As the story progresses, filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine find hope in a National Music Competition, which Patongo Primary School will compete in for the first time. This Olympic style competition, set in the capital city of Kampala, features over 5,000 Ugandan students from across the country. Students are judged in eight arenas including western choir, creative dance, original composition, traditional folk song, dramatic composition, instrumental performance, and traditional dance. The documentary follows these three children, and the many others voices of Patongo, as they struggle to find hope in a refugee camp and their future, through voice, dance, and a xylophone.




Forced Migration Review, 2007, no. 28, pp. 36-37(2)

Freedson, J., Singh, S. and Spencer, S. W.

Abstracted by Annmarie Barnes

The conflict in Sudan, specifically in Darfur, has had adverse effects on the entire region, and its population is greatly affected by the violence. Some of the most at-risk populations affected by the conflict are children. Freedson and her colleagues outline some of the stark realities faced by children from the Darfur region in light of intervention by humanitarian organizations. The discussion is based on a mandate from the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict organization, which released a report titled sudan's Children at a Crossroads: An Urgent Need for Protection." The findings of that report indicate that Sudanese children are being subjected to violence from armed forces including sexual violence, forced capture for service in armed forces, and fatal attacks. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was supposed to lead to peace in southern Sudan, but the provisions have not been effective in alleviating the level of violence long-term. The international community's initiatives such as the UNHCR's plan to repatriate internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to Sudan have made positive but limited gains toward resolving the issue. Moreover, these initiatives were negatively affected by difficulty in logistics, lack of support, and the lack of security for the returnees. This security vacuum has made it difficult for agencies to collect accurate data concerning the number of children affected by violence and the specific incidents. There is also the potential for retribution when incidents are reported, which may deter victims from speaking out or seeking justice. Furthermore, the humanitarian organizations in the region compiled information that document the killing and torturing of children. The findings from these organizations indicate there is a high incidence of sexual violence and abduction affecting children and adults, school enrollment has declined in response to potential abductions at schools, and children and refugees have been captured and forced to become soldiers in the conflict. Despite these grim findings there is a sense of inchoate hope. The governments of Sudan and its neighbors can play a prominent role in protecting children by providing funds for programs that support education, and allowing humanitarian organizations access to areas of need throughout Sudan. The most salient recommendations that could improve the lack of security for children in Sudan include: avoiding forced relocations for IDPs, education for IDPs, protection of children, increasing and maintaining resources allocated for the protection of children, and sustained influence from trading partners such as China to encourage adherence to international law and international treaties.




Gender & Development , 2002, vol.10, no. 1 (2002): 38-42(5)

Dottridge M.

Abstracted by Elizabeth Stands

The sensational account of a ship carrying “slave children” in West Africa (revealed in the Western press in April 2001) again brought the West’s attention to the plight of trafficked children. Dottridge is quick to criticize, however, the Western press’ willingness to take credit for revealing the trade in trafficked children. He insists that it was, in fact, efforts by West African NGOs and journalists, through research and advocacy, which truly documented and illuminated the organized trade in children. He is critical, not only of praise of the Western press in revealing the problem, but also in its inferences of an African ‘culture of slavery’ and its choice to publicize the more sensationalist elements of the trade without concerning themselves with identifying the realities and underlying causes of child trafficking. Dottridge uses this article to describe efforts by various West and Central African organizations and governments to address the problem of child trafficking, focusing primarily on trade within African countries. Before discussing these efforts, the author notes some of the cultural traditions which unwittingly support the trafficking in children, and particularly highlights the role of gender inequality in perpetuating the trade. Traditionally in West and Central African societies, girls in rural areas are sent to more affluent homes to work as domestic laborers. The practices in these societies, wherein communities are accustomed to seeing girls leave their homes for marriage, where girls are kept out of school to work in the home, and where laws of inheritance do little to ensure security for women and girls, all contribute to a complacency in allowing girls to leave the community, on the pretence of improving their situation and unwittingly being pulled into the trafficking trade. The majority of children trafficked are girls and almost all are coerced into the trade by traffickers intent on placing them in situations of forced labor. Boys more often find themselves on farms, doing the physical labor which complements their traditional role in their culture. Dottridge acknowledges the reality of girls forced into prostitution in Europe , but chooses not to expand the scope of this article to discuss their plight. Instead he looks at the situation throughout Western and Central African and identifies organizations such as the Constitutional Rights Project in Nigeria, the WAO-Afrique NGO based in Togo, and ESAM (a Beninois NGO) all of which work to report on and create solutions to the problem of trafficking. Dottridge observes that the impact of the African media writing reports on the trade resulted in the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Mali creating a commission of inquiry, which resulted in an agreement to reduce the traffic. The work of local and regional NGOs caught the attention of larger international actors, such as UNICEF and the World Bank, resulting in regional workshops and increased efforts to create programs. Despite this flurry of activity, however, the author highlights the unfortunate lack of coordination of these agencies in program delivery, agreeing on methods of protecting trafficked children once identified, and determining what systematic action to take to help these children. Dottridge concludes by reinforcing the negative impact that gender inequality plays in minimizing efforts to coherently deal with the problem of trafficking. He points out that too many governments in the region leave the issue to women’s ministries, instead of using more powerful actors, such as Ministries of Labor, to initiate plans of action. He believes, “…this would almost certainly be unacceptable if the majority of trafficking victims were men and boys.” (p41)



Film: 1997

Director: Sam Kalayanee

Producer: Sam Kalayanee

Distributor: Images Asia, Witness

Runtime: 30 minutes

Abstracted by Ellen Jorgensen

12-year-old twins stare into the camera, with a devil-may-care attitude and an AK-47. They are co-commanders of a battalion in a Burmese rebel army, known as God’s Army. They have been soldiers for three years, in one of the many heavily armed ethnic groups fighting against the Burmese dictatorship, for the last twenty years.

In Burma, and surrounding countries like Thailand, children have been severely affected by the war. In the Burmese military alone, approximately 70,000 children serve as soldiers. The state is entrenched in permanent conflict and abject poverty. The director, Sam Kalayanee, presents the story of Burma in the 1980s and 1990s, through interviews, graphic photos, and video images of internally displaced persons and refugees, specifically children. It is a matter of great urgency, as the region has one of the world’s highest numbers of child soldiers both in government forces and ethnic guerilla groups. Refugee children are forced to work as slaves in hard labor, serve as child soldiers, or human shields in mine sweeps, or are raped and tortured. Girls often end up as slaves in sweatshops or brothels in neighboring countries, while young boys are handed guns, uniforms, and marching orders.

For an IDP, life in a uniform is often seen as safer than living as an unarmed villager, and provides a secure avenue for food. Refugees often join the army, mostly to avenge abuses. Although a child is seen as the most precious human possession in Burmese folklore, this documentary shows that many children have known nothing but killing. Violence is an accepted, normal way of life. As the filmmakers show, these children have no childhood at all.









Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Volume 45, Number 1, pp. 247-260, winter 2010

Young, Wendy and Megan McKenna

Abstracted by Kim Bell

Migration is a topic that has become increasingly important in a globalized world, especially in the United States. While many recognize the need to improve the United States’ immigration policy, more attention is given to adults than to the number of unaccompanied children that also need to be addressed through reforms. The article points out that this is a serious issue because thousands of unaccompanied children are placed into federal care every year. Unaccompanied children are arguably the most vulnerable group of immigrants at all stages of migration because they are minors, under eighteen, and are put through an immigration system primarily structured for adults. This means that they are rarely given counsel in court, and are detained for long periods of time and susceptible to abuse at holding facilities due to inadequate services tailored to children. The article is broken into six sections: I. Often Overlooked: Unaccompanied Children in the United States, II. A Work in Progress: Care, Custody, and Placement of Children, III. Juvenile Incongruence: Improperly Tailored Forms of Immigration Relief Available to Unaccompanied Children, IV. The Biggest Gap: Lack of Legal Representation, V. Procedural Recommendations for U.S. Immigration Law, and VI. Going Forward. Its purpose is to shed light on an overlooked topic, highlight areas that need work, and provide advice for positive changes. Most importantly, this article positions itself within the context of the current immigration reform debate in the United States. By doing so, the article has the ability to be used by the current administration, under President Obama, to make needed and positive change in an area of immigration that has been overlooked, with increasing numbers over recent years.




European Journal of Migration and Law, 2001, vol. 3, no. 3/4, pp. 347-381(35)

Sadoway, G.

Abstracted by Natalie Huls

Canadians justly take pride in their long-standing humanitarian tradition and generosity with respect to refugees. Canada has one of the best non-government organizations for refugees. The country was also the first to publish guidelines on gender-related persecution and on procedural and evidentiary matters in determining child asylum claims. However, Sadoway explains that Canada's immigration department is inadequate when it comes to reunifying refugee families and dealing with separated refugee children. The focus of the article is the treatment of unaccompanied refugee children. Sadoway explains that the Canadian federal government provides funding to the provincial governments to pay for immigrant settlement services. However, services within each province vary greatly. The variance does not significantly affect adults, but does affect refugee children. The author compares the situations of separated refugee children in Quebec, British Colombia, and Ontario. Quebec has the most satisfactory services dealing with refugee children. Quebec has a special para-public organization, Service d'Aide aux Réfugies et Immigrants de Montréal Métropolitain (SARIMM), that deals with immigrants and refugees. Citizenship and Immigration Canada immediately refers unaccompanied children to this organization. SARIMM acts as the Designated Representative for children during their asylum cases, helps children contact relatives who may already reside in Canada, and places children with families from a similar ethnic background if they are without relatives. SARIMM also helps children apply for permanent resident status if their refugee claim was successful. The situation for separated refugee children is less satisfactory in British Colombia. In this province the Ministry of Children and Family Development decides to place children in care or to “remove” them to their home country. However, the Ministry does not stay involved in the lives of the children unless it acts as a child's Designated Representative. Ontario has the most numbers of refugee children but the least satisfactory system of dealing with these children. Child welfare agencies only deal with children under the age of 16. These agencies also need a formal wardship order from the Ontario Court to act as guardians of the children. No formal agreement exists to provide unaccompanied refugee children with a Designated Representative. Instead, the Immigration and Refugee Board developed a list of immigration lawyers who, when requested, act as Designated Representatives. Sadoway continues her article by describing the detention process of refugee children in Canada, and describing the process of determining refugee status for children. The guidelines on procedural and evidentiary matters for child refugee claimants recognize that children are likely to forget certain events due to the stress and trauma of fleeing their home countries. The author identifies a further problem with assessing refugee claims in the lack of emphasis placed on family unity. Parents may apply for asylum on behalf of their children, but children may not apply for asylum on behalf of their parents or siblings. This results in the separation of children from their parents. The author concludes her article by stressing the inconsistencies and gaps that exist in the protection and care system for refugees in different provinces. Sadoway states that separated refugee children are especially vulnerable because they constitute a small proportion of claims. She recommends specialized training for immigration officers, provincial child welfare authorities, the courts, the lawyers, and the refugee and immigrant settlement workers who come into direct contact with separated refugee children.




Child Welfare, September/October 2001, vol. 80, no. 5, pp. 587-596(10)

Fantino, A. M. and A. Colak

Abstracted by Natalie Huls

Children have a difficult time developing a personal identity in society. Refugee children have the double difficulty of developing a personal identity in society and developing that identity in a new society. Fantino and Colak discuss the integration of refugee children into Canadian society. Canada has a consistent record of resettling refugees and other immigrants within its borders. The authors state that about 800,000 refugees resettled in Canada since the end of World War II. Between 1995 and 1999, more than 300,000 immigrant children resettled in Canada. Using these numbers, the authors compare the experiences of refugee and immigrant children. They explain that both groups face the challenge of achieving acceptance at school and acting as “cultural brokers” for their parents at home. The children face the stress of living in two cultures, but Fantino and Colak state that the main threat for refugee and immigrant children is the stress of belonging to no culture. However, there are obvious differences between refugee children and immigrant children. Refugee children often come from a tragic and traumatic background and are less likely to be able to return home. Refugee children need to grieve their losses, but the process goes unrecognized. The authors explain that social services are instrumental to helping children adapt to a new culture. Social service settlement assistance includes first language translation services, help in locating permanent housing and accessing English language classes, community orientation, referrals to health and social services, and other services. These services help families and children adjust to the new culture. A special Canadian program for children, the National Play Program for At-Risk Refugee Children serves to help heal traumatized children. The authors cite several examples where the Play Program and community connections helped refugee children and their families heal from their experiences and begin integration into Canadian society. To conclude, Fantino and Colak explain that integration of refugees requires efforts by the newcomers and by mainstream Canadians to accommodate each other. Refugee children need to learn to integrate their history with their present and future lives in Canada. To ensure successful integration, host countries must have the willingness, ability, and resources to provide refugees with culturally sensitive services.