November 30, 2009

Pope: Child refugees face ‘serious hardships’

by David Masters

Children forced to flee their homeland to seek asylum in another country often face “serious hardships and difficulties”, the Pope said this week.

The number of child refugees is on the increase, and rich countries around the world need to do more to respond to the needs of this vulnerable group, the Pontiff said.

“Although there is an increasing public awareness of the need for immediate and incisive action to protect [child refugees], nevertheless, many are left to themselves and, in various ways, face the risk of exploitation,” said Pope Benedict XVI.

Difficulties faced by underage migrants include being deprived of the support of their family, and struggling to integrate into a new school.

“It is important that these young people be given the possibility of attending school and subsequently of being integrated into the world of work, and that their social integration be facilitated by appropriate educational and social structures,” the the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said.

“It should never be forgotten that adolescence constitutes a fundamental phase for the formation of human beings.”

Countries receiving child refugees should make sure their rights as a child are protected, the Pope added.

“While the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that the best interests of minors must always be safeguarded, recognising their fundamental human rights as equal to the rights of adults, unfortunately this does not always happen in practice.

“A particular category of minors is that of refugees seeking asylum, who, for various reasons, are fleeing their own country, where they are not given adequate protection.

“Statistics show that their numbers are increasing.

“This is therefore a phenomenon that calls for careful evaluation and co-ordinated action by implementing appropriate measures of prevention, protection and welcome, as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The Pope issued the message in advance of the ninety-sixth World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on 17 January 2010.

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