‘Children on the move are children first’ : A Critical Analysis of Position Papers on Children on the Move from the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Tema Barn; Linköpings universitet/Tema Barn

Abstract: With children on the move at the forefront of policy-making and research in Europe in recent years, it has been argued that children’s rights are increasingly encroached upon through tighter immigration controls and inconsistent policy interventions. The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) is an institution that aims to address children’s rights violations at a regional level throughout Europe, meaning that it should in its promotion of core children’s rights ensure a balance is reached between provision, participation and protection in addressing policy problems relating to children on the move. Through a discourse analysis this thesis critically examines how problems are represented in ENOCs position statements, and how ENOC represent and construct children and childhood in relation to children on the move. Our analysis indicated that the statements were predominantly based within a rights-based approach, especially where longer-term strategies were promoted. This reveals that ENOCs emphasis on the need for children’s rights to take precedence over state sovereignty, that children’s rights to participation and non- discrimination is accentuated over child protection perspectives, and that the recognition of the heterogeneity of the experiences of children on the move is endorsed. However, whilst ENOC seeks to move away from stereotypical notions of the migrant child, by promoting their agency and heterogeneity, children on the move are also represented in isolation in the position papers. Disassociated from family and adult migrants, children on the move are constructed as victims, vulnerable, dependent and in need of special care and assistance. In this light, their construction conveys a notion of complexity, however, it is also evident that their vulnerability is fostered in order to receive the protection and support they are entitled to, whether at a regional, European or international level.

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