Refugee and Migrant Children
While images of separated and detained migrant children at the US-Mexican border have sparked concern and outrage in the media, the issue of how children who cross international borders should be treated has received remarkably little attention. This is particularly striking given that more than half of the world’s 70 million displaced people are under the age of 18. ISIM faculty focus their attention on refugee and migrant children through its teaching and research and seeks to provide solid research evidence as a basis for sound child-centric policies.
Spring 2019 Course:
Spring 2019 Centennial Lab, Refugee and Migrant Families and Children: In Search of Best Practices
With the generosity of the GHR Foundation, Professors Donato and Ferris developed and taught a new experiential class in spring 2019 course that examined best practices for responding to children who arrive at a country’s border. This experiential class departed from the traditional model with professors lecturing and students taking notes; rather faculty and students worked together to assess good and bad practices affecting the protection and well-being of children. The class of 22 students compiled existing international standards for refugee and migrant children, spoke with US experts in child protection, and each wrote a paper on one country’s policies toward refugee and migrant children. The high point was a trip to Stockholm, Sweden, in March where students and faculty met with government officials at the national and local levels, academic researchers, representatives of civil society and UN agencies, and refugees and immigrants to consider the ways in which Sweden manages the admission and early integration of refugee and migrant children and families. Many components of Sweden’s policies toward children are impressive including that unaccompanied children are assigned legal guardians, social workers, and lawyers to support their asylum applications. Children are entitled to public education and free medical care. In addition, unlike other countries, unaccompanied children who are refugees or seeking asylum are never housed in detention centers.
In Search of Best Practices: Comparative Analyses of National Policies toward Refugee and Migrant Children, edited by Professors Elizabeth Ferris and Katharine Donato
We are currently working with a small group of students from the Centennial Lab class to prepare an academic book. The book will examine the policies of a range of governments toward children arriving on their borders, and focus on five dimensions: border policies, legal status, education, health, and integration. The book will focus on children who arrive on borders – whether as migrants or asylum-seekers — rather than those who are resettled through refugee programs or who migrate through regular pathways. The book fills a gap in the literature by providing an assessment of ten countries’ policies toward refugee and migrant children – from Australia to Uganda, Turkey to Bangladesh. It begins by describing trends in the data on refugee and migrant children and drawing out themes and good practices from the case studies. This is followed by chapters on individual countries’ policies and practices. In an annex, we will provide a comprehensive summary of international standards for refugee and migrant children.
Spring 2020 Course:
Spring 2020: Centennial Lab Refugee and Migrant Children: Mexico, the United States, and the World
In Spring 2020, ISIM will continue to research policies toward refugee and migrant children by examining policies and practices toward children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico and in Mexico City. Students in the class will meet with U.S. experts, academics and Mexican government representatives and read primary-source materials before traveling to the Mexico-U.S. border and to Mexico City during spring break. The emphasis on Mexico is both timely and important given it has now become both a transit and destination country for many families seeking asylum. This experiential learning class will engage students to think about humanitarian practices that support children traveling with or without their families, children with special needs, and those traumatized en route. Students will take an in-depth look at whether and how refugee and migrant children are assisted in Mexico and the United States, with a particular focus on those from Central America, Cuba, and Venezuela arriving in both countries. Depending on the findings from the course, Professors Donato and Ferris will write up their findings in an appropriate format to disseminate them broadly.
Katharine Donato “Migrant and Refugee Children: America’s Story from Its Origins up to Present”
The history of US policies toward migrant children is convoluted, ranging from protectionist to punitive policies toward children arriving on its borders. This book traces the evolution of these patterns and the policies that attempted to manage them, emphasizing unaccompanied children arriving in the United States in search of protection or a better life. In examining policies and practices, the book asks whether and how child-centric policies and practices influence legal system and children’s navigation through a complex array of administrative and judicial practices and procedures.
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