What Do You Think? The voice of migrant and refugee children living in Belgium (UNICEF)

Over a period of two years, a UNICEF Belgium team collected the testimonies of 170 migrant and refugee children from 36 nationalities in reception centres and schools. The children talk about their experiences in their country of origin and their new environment, the disaster they fled for, the trials they endured on the way, their joy and sorrow. With this report UNICEF wants to build a bridge between the words of these young people, who are very keen on participation, and policy makers who are often far removed from their reality.

Since 2015, the ‘refugee crisis’– lies at the heart of political and media debates. But in this flood of information, some voices are practically inaudible: those of the most vulnerable among the vulnerable: migrant and refugee children. And yet, many of them have settled in Belgium. However, they are rarely invited to talk about their life in exile or the hardships they have endured along a road full of pitfalls. There are all too few occasions to listen to what they have to say about what pushed them to leave or about their reception in Belgium. But when they are given the opportunity, it is clear that they are driven by a deep desire to share their life experiences and their story. They want to talk and hope that we, as responsible adults, are listening to them, without patronizing them. By expressing their opinion, these children are not always aware of the fact that they are also expressing their rights. Rights that should always be in the decision-makers’ minds and that are written in black and white in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These children want to participate in a meaningful way. It should lead to something and influence the decisions directly concerning them, if only a little; the decisions relating to the rights of children in migration.

This report offers the opportunity to read some of these children’s accounts; accounts that were collected over a two-year period. You can read the unfiltered opinions, experiences, joys and sadness of these refugee children in Belgium. From their words UNICEF distils very serious and precise recommendations to improve the rights of migrant and refugee children.

More information on the 'What do you think?' project and a link to the report (available in English, French and Dutch), on https://www.unicef.be/fr/a-propos-unicef/unicef-en-belgique/what-do-you-think/ .

Publication Date:
Tue 09 Jan 2018
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