CyberDodo defends the right to reunite families (2-10)

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What does article 10 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child say (summary):

Article 10 – The right of children and their parents to leave or enter any country (which is a Signatory of the Convention) for the purposes of being reunited with their family or maintaining relationships.

In other words, a country which has signed the International Convention on the Rights of the Child must consider any request made by a child or his parents to enter or leave the country in order for the family to be reunited “in a positive spirit, with humanity and diligence” (The original text of the Convention is in inverted commas).

Let’s have a closer look at the terms used in the Convention: as regards a ‘positive spirit’, there is no need for any additional comments. Let’s go to the word ‘humanity’, which refers to universal values ideally related to our species, as well as goodwill, generosity, sensitivity, kindness, compassion, etc. With regard to ‘diligence’, this consists of ensuring that the request is examined rapidly and with goodwill in mind.

The idea of reuniting a family (Or maintaining relationships between children and their parents) was therefore considered to be so important by the States which signed the Convention that they inserted very clear indications in the text on the way to handle ‘cases’ which shall be submitted to them.

What are these ‘cases’ that we are talking about?

These ‘cases’ actually have to do with human beings who have been separated due to life circumstances. Unfortunately there are numerous cases of divorce, whereby one of the parents stays in a different country to that of his or her child, or war situations or poverty, which pushes one of the parents to leave the country, therefore there are many potential causes of separation of families.

What is it all about in reality?

It is rather controversial to note that the understanding of the terms ‘positive spirit’, ‘humanity’ and ‘diligence’ is regarded differently if you are a child separated from one of your parents (or even worse both of them) as compared to a country that is studying this ‘case’.

The passage of time is not the same; a couple of months can be considered as a normal period in terms of administration, even though it is an interminable period for a child, who is troubled by separation and disruption of his or her family unit.

Family unity is as much a right as a necessity

How can we improve the way children are reunited with their parents?

For many countries, the idea of reuniting the family focuses more on clandestine immigration and children are not allowed to accompany their mothers in order to be with their fathers (most of the time, in fact, the father ‘takes a chance’ overseas, leaving his wife and children in their country of origin) because of the specific condition that they are staying legally in the country.

If you can understand that when you move to a country, you must respect specific regulations, it is also important to take into account the reality of the situation, as often immigrants have been living and working in a country for many years in a more or less clandestine manner (for example, many pay taxes even though their status is theoretically illegal) and are separated from their children.

This reality is in fact recognised by numerous economists, notably, rich countries need immigrants in order to have ‘cheap’ labour but refuse to grant them rights in connection with their families. The principle of these rights is in fact recognised by numerous international legal instruments, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in its article 16:

‘Family is a natural and fundamental element of society and has the right to protection by society and the State’

Click here for the complete text of the Universal Human Rights Declaration

For families separated due to poverty existing in their country of origin, a significant improvement of this situation would be to consider human rights to be just as important as the economic needs of a nation and therefore recognise, for example, that a father who is an immigrant labourer on a building site is as much an ‘immigrant worker on a building site’ as he is a ‘father’.

This should not in any way diminish the responsibility that parents have of guaranteeing that their children have adequate living standards so that they can develop harmoniously (See our file on this subject: Because any person who wants to have a child must first ask themselves if they have the resources to provide him with living standards which are indispensable for their growth.

Reuniting families and war

When war breaks out, children are always victims, whether this happens directly or indirectly. Directly, because they are displaced, hurt, killed, deprived of care, accommodation, etc. or indirectly because they witness their family suffering from the horrors inherent to all armed conflicts and are often separated from their families or one of their parents.

Even moreso in extreme situations, children have rights which include that of finding their parents. In this extremely complex context, the Red Cross and Red Crescent play an irreplaceable role by particularly ensuring communication between family members and promoting reunion of families.

Provisional Conclusion

The at times important difference which can exist between the central place granted to the family as a ‘natural and fundamental element’ of our societies and the difficulties encountered by those who wish to be reunited with their families and/or maintain relationships are a good indication of how much is yet to be done to ensure that children are no longer separated from their parents.

In other words, will rich countries (mainly, but not just rich countries) be able to set aside the attitude of ‘each one for himself’ in the general interest of everyone and particularly children?

To see the cartoon on reuniting families, click here, for the game, click here and for the quiz, click here.

© CyberDodo Productions