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Children are walking along a street. (Foto: Lars Heidrich)

We are talking about people!

 Katrin Weidemann, Kindernothilfe, Chief Executive Officer

Think beyond borders and act humanely. This is the principle we act upon when we stand up for the right of every child to life and development.

Yet, this right is severely threatened. Right now this becomes obvious when we turn our attention to children who are fleeing from war, violence and insecurity. Political debates about flight, asylum and migration give the impression that children’s rights are limited, and whoever is a refugee will lose these rights. We strongly disagree with this.

If we leave people drowning in the Mediterranean, compare their often deadly flights with holiday trips, and set up refugee camps no longer to provide humanitarian emergency relief but as permanent establishments, as places of detention, administration and defence, this is contradictory to all values of humanity.

It almost seems as if the progress civilisation has made during the last few centuries has been wiped out: children locked up in camps, refugees shipwrecked; states striving to seal themselves off, acting as if the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights did not exist.

All this reminds us alarmingly of what happened 80 years ago. In July 1938, the representatives of 32 states negotiated the future of 540,000 Jews from the German Reich and Austria. The NS regime had deprived them of their money and wealth; now they were seeking refuge and protection. They would really love to receive a larger number of refugees, declared the individual state representatives; they were terribly sorry, but unfortunately they were not able to do so. Thousands of men, women and children tried to emigrate as ship passengers to escape the NS regime. They started on an odyssey across the world’s oceans, but nowhere did they receive a landing permit.

The pathetic bargaining for admission quotas in Evian ended unsuccessfully. “But don’t you know these so-called numbers are human beings?”, as one outraged conference observer remarked.

Also today, it is the fate of human beings which is at stake. It is one the most important tasks we have to protect girls and boys especially in difficult life situations. We, as Kindernothilfe, and as fellow human beings. The right to protection, care, health and education – each and every child all over the world should be able to benefit from this right. Theoretically, the global community agrees on this – all the signatories of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the UN Sustainability Goals made this clear.

It is high time to take action now. The international community needs to take solidary action so that children, and especially those children who were forced to leave their homes, can benefit from their rights. We need a strong commitment for children’s rights and the human rights of refugees, we need a strong political commitment for democracy in the countries of origin, and we need development policies which serve to reduce poverty but not to pursue national policy interests.