Keynote address by Helen Stalford: Children on the Run

Date: Thursday 23 August 2018
Time: 18:00-19:30
Place: Auditorium 4, University of Bergen faculty of Law, Bergen

Keynote address: David and Goliath: Children’s participation in immigration proceedings

What does it mean to adopt a children’s rights-based approach to immigration and asylum law.
Notwithstanding the vast literature on children’s participation on the one hand, and on child migration on the other, there has been virtually no attempt to bring these fields of inquiry together to interrogate the currency of participation for immigrant children. This is perhaps not surprising: one might query the relevance of participation, conceptually or practically, in proceedings that are arguably inimical to individual autonomy (there is no specific human right to choose the country in which you want to live) and that permit only narrow, welfare-related concessions to an otherwise rigid regime primarily designed to protect state borders and public resources. And yet it is argued that participation and, specifically, the weight to be attached to children’s views, is a crucial dimension of migration proceedings, particularly in relation to unaccompanied children, not least because, in the absence of any other documentation or supporting evidence, the outcome of the case rests heavily on the child’s own testimony.

Applying children’s rights-based conceptualisations of participation to this area are contested and complex. The coherence and credibility of children’s direct accounts, the influence of anecdotes on what should be told or not told to authorities, children’s motivation for migrating, are factors playing into the proceedings of applying for asylum or residence permits. The obligations of the States are clear: Migrant children have the same rights as domestic children, and unaccompanied migrating children are an exceptionally vulnerable group. States still have to uphold a threshold for immigration, and thus migrating children will meet a system that also are operating under a rather more hostile agenda of exclusion and expulsion.  What does compliance with Article 12 UNCRC actually mean in asylum proceedings?

The keynote address will be followed by a roundtable discussion which will focus on children’s right to be heard, as expressed in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):

Moderator: Katre Luhamaa (University of Bergen) Participants: Hilde Liden (SFI);  Sagrario Segado (The National Distance Education University, Spain); Katrin Kriz (Emannuel College); June Thoburn (University of East Anglia); Maja Janmyr (UiO/ head of Migration Unit, LawTransform); Nicolas Orago (University ofC Nairobi)