Back in February of this year, I wrote about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and explained some of the reasons that the United States is one of the two members of the United Nations that has not ratified the Convention. While many people find it surprising (and sometimes frustrating) that the United States has not ratified, it is worth noting that ratification alone does not always include all the necessary enabling legislation to make the treaty effective domestically. The United Kingdom, for example, ratified the Convention in 1991, but it was not until 2008 that the United Kingdom accepted that the Convention applies to refugee children, one of the most at-risk groups of children in the international community.
On April 13, 2011, the Refugee Children’s Rights Project was launched (with funding from the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund). The Project’s goal is to make the best interests of the child the primary consideration in the United Kingdom’s decisions regarding refugee children. The Project intends to use strategic litigation to ensure that children’s rights in the United Kingdom are upheld to national and international standards.
Many government agencies and private organizations in the United States also recognize the special needs of refugee children and make assisting them a priority. The City of Denver actually has an Agency of Human Rights and Community Relations that includes an Office of Community Support. That Office publishes an Immigrant and Refugee Resource Guide with contact information for local organizations that assist refugees and immigrants.
At the end of the day, though, refugee children still slip through the cracks and often lack the necessary support system to ensure that they receive quality assistance and representation.