Legal Nigeria

TRANSNATIONAL CHILD PROTECTION. -By Success Oghosa Osasogie

Success Oghosa Osasogie

Child Protection in its simplest form addresses every child’s right not to be subjected to harm. It complements other rights that inter alia ensure that children receive that which they need in order to survive, develop and thrive1. Child Protection refers to the protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect in an international setting.   Issues of child protection include child labour, child trafficking, harmful traditional practices, sexual exploitation, violence and neglect, birth registration and child identity. It is worthy of note that failure to protect children will lead to fundamental issues and problems in adulthood which eventually impacts the society negatively. Child protection is often a major concern during emergencies such as war, armed conflicts, feminine and this results in displacement, family separation, abduction, sexual exploitation and so on. One of the major objectives of child protection is to ensure that all those having the duty or responsibility of caring for the child do so with every sense of responsibility and this include parents or caregivers, teachers, and the state.

Transnational child protection addresses the issue of child neglect, abuse, exploitation, violence across borders. Article 2 and 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child provides for non-discrimination and protection of children outside their home country. This means that children have right to be protected irrespective of their origin, status or background. Transnational child protection can arise in cases where the child has dual citizenship, international adoption, unaccompanied minors, child migration or child trafficking.

When it comes to child migration, several reasons that warrant adult migration can also apply to children doing same, such as search for loved ones, search for better opportunities, armed conflict, natural disaster and escape from abuse, neglect or violence of any kind. Children on the move are constantly faced with several kinds of harms and violation of their rights.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  1. The Hague Conference on Private International Law(HCCH): Its main objective is to expedite cross border processes and ensure there is enforcement of decisions. It does not necessarily seek the nationality of a child but habitual residence
  2. The UN Refugee Convention: Aims at ensuring the protection of child rights and the application of asylum
  3. Convention on the Rights of the Child

It is pertinent to note that when dealing with the issue of child protection, one major consideration is “best interest assessment”.

Best Interest Assessment and Determination

 This is provided for in Article 2 CRC “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”. It addresses issues such as identity of the child or relations, risk and security assessment, family assessment, child’s background and needs, etc. The goal of the child’ best interest is to arrive at a decision that safeguard’s the child’s wellbeing, welfare, safety, development.  All elements needed to make a decision in a specific case for the child must be put into consideration and these include; child’s identity, views, wellbeing, family environment, vulnerability etc. The best interest assessment concerns itself with day to day activities which do not have significant effect on the child. They are less formal and they change as the child grows up and this implies that the best interest will have to be reexamined as time progresses. The best interest determination on the other hand states that there is the need for the involvement of professionals and government workers in arriving at the best interest of the child. These include the identity of the child, family tracing, risk and security of the child; find a durable solution for the child etc.

When conducting assessment or determination as regards the best interest of the child, there is need to have access to certain information so proper decision can be made. The very first source is the child. Other sources include professionals, family tracing, law enforcement agencies, judges.

Data Protection

All officers handling the information of a child as regards transnational child protection issue must ensure that the right of the child to privacy is respected. Sharing the child’s information with other authorities within country of destination or across border may conflict with this right as to privacy.2 In the case of asylum seekers, information regarding application must not be shared with the country of origin. When the application is denied by country of destination, limited amount of information may be shared with the country of origin in order to facilitate return; this may become necessary when the applicant has no valid identity documents3.

Identity and Age Assessment.

The identity of a child includes the nationality, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic background of the child. Where a child arrives at a country with no valid identity documents, there is need to establish a communication between countries of origin and country of arrival. This information includes the child’s name, ethnicity, age, family relations, in some cases the relationship between the child and the person they are travelling with.4

The age assessment comes in play when children from less developed countries are not registered at birth thus making information as to age and identity very difficult. Incorrect information could also be the case5 

The age is also relevant to know if the child qualifies as a child as stated under the UN Convention of who a child is. Another reason is for criminal responsibility and appointment of a guardian. Also where a temporary protection has been granted until age 186

The challenges associated with transnational child protection is very complex and require specialized expertise. Criminal activity, trafficking, child identity and exploitation are major challenges

Challenges Associated with Transnational Child Protection.

  1. Exploitation
  2. Drug trafficking
  3. Family separation
  4. Malnutrition
  5. Health hazards
  6. Death

The Way Forward.

Children irrespective of their status should be given proper attention to; their survival and development will contribute positively or negatively to the society in the long run.

References

  1. Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.14(2013)
  2. 4th Project Expert Meeting, Riga, Nov. 2014, presentations by Philip Ishola, Independent Child Protection, Human Trafficking, Human Rights Consultant, UK and Aiga Balode, Deputy Director, Data State Inspectorate of Latvia.
  3. 4th Project Expert Meeting, Riga, Nov. 2014, presentations by Philip Ishola, Independent Child Protection, Human Trafficking, Human Rights Consultant, UK and Aiga Balode, Deputy Director, Data State Inspectorate of Latvia.
  4. Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.6(2005)
  5. UNICEF, Age Assessment: A technical note. UNHCR Guidelines on International Child Protection: Child asylum claims, 2009
  6. UNICEF Guidelines on the Protection of Child Victims of Trafficking par 3.12

Success Oghosa Osasogie is a Lagos based Legal Practitioner and a professional volunteer.

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Email:oghoslegal@gmail.com

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