Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second There is quite a lot of cross-border collaboration. I think we push for it to be even more, all the time. But we work with consular services of the different countries– and the day, also, that we help them get together– so that they can share information. If a child moves across a border or into two different borders, it’s important that the same information on that child is available to those who should have access– important to keep the information confidential, of course, but that way you can ensure a sort of continuum of care and services to this child, whether he or she is moving in one direction or the other, it doesn’t really matter, but to have the same basis for trying to ensure that this child has his or her rights respected.
Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds There are some very good experiences in the different countries, and what we’re trying to do in UNICEF is to collect that and say, okay, here is a good experience. Why don’t we base this information system? For example, in Guatemala there was a good information system that UNFPA and UNICEF work together on, on migrants-, particularly migrant children. That could be used in Mexico. That could be used in Honduras and El Salvador. So that’s an example of, why reinvent the wheel when there is already a good experience on the table. There is also a more operational collaboration to make sure that migration is more orderly and organised as people move across borders-, again, whether they’re going abroad or coming home.
Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds And even if it’s forcibly returned, it’s important that that is done in an orderly way. Coordination between Mexican and Guatemalan authorities for example, on when buses were leaving Mexico and when they could arrive in Guatemala so that families could pick up their unaccompanied children– was extremely important, so that they’re not left out in the open– but to ensure their protection along the route. So there’s plenty of experience. We are trying to help with this horizontal cooperation, and cooperation among countries, because there are a lot of very good experiences– perhaps small scale, at the moment. But to the extent that they can be replicated, we should promote them.
Cross border coordination and cooperation
Continuing on the theme of cooperation and coordination, in this video we hear again from Christian Skoog, Representative of UNICEF Mexico. He tells us why we should develop systems that allow information sharing when a child moves across a border. One significant reason is to prevent children having to continuously provide different people with the same information - especially when it is information that may be sensitive and upsetting to tell. Sharing information across borders also means we can provide a continuum of care and services for an unaccompanied or separated child.
A major obstacle to achieving ongoing quality support for unaccompanied and separated children is the lack of collaboration between countries. We need to make sure that when unaccompanied and separated children move from country to country it is possible to carefully monitor and provide ongoing appropriate alternative care, protection and other support services. To do this officials and organisations responsible for the care and protection of unaccompanied and separated children in one country should coordinate as closely as possible with counterparts in the neighbouring country. This means establishing systems of safely sharing information about each child as they cross borders. It will involve close cooperation between different practitioners responsible for migration procedures and the protection and care of children.
Children and young people who have been on the move report how disturbing it is to provide the same information over and over again – especially when they face people at border crossings who do not believe them, or they have to explain traumatic events etc. If assessments of a child’s circumstances have already been made by professionals in one country, then sharing of this information might also prevent a child having to repeat the same details rather than informing you of any changes.
There are examples of cross-border cooperation already happening in some parts of the world. This includes situations where staff of governments, international organisations and of NGOs based in neighbouring countries are able to tell counterparts in a neighbouring country about children who are likely to arrive soon, so that appropriate reception arrangements can be made.
One example is the cross-border cooperation among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ECOWAS is a regional economic zone that includes 15 member states. ECOWAS’ initiatives on migration include the West Africa Network for the Protection of Children (WAN). This is a network of governments, civil society organizations, and individuals that share a referral mechanism for the protection of children in transit and when they reintegrate back into their communities of origin in West Africa. This network has developed a means of coordination and sharing information among the different national child protection systems in ECOWAS. As the countries of ECOWAS demonstrate, it is possible to come together across borders to establish essential mechanisms to protect refugee and migrant children. You can read more about this initiative in UNICEF’s publication Beyond Borders.
Please remember, however, when setting up such a system, that sharing of information must be undertaken in a very confidential and sensitive manner, and in a way that does not put a child at risk. We must be very careful how, and with whom, we share information.
You will find additional information on cross border cooperation in the ‘See Also’ section below.