Children on the Move: Philosophy and Child Migration
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The so-called “refugee crisis” made migration the No. 1 political topic in many countries across the globe. This is mirrored by an unprecedented height in scholarly attention, also in philosophy (to name a few of the latest: Miller 2016; Parekh 2017; Fine and Ypi 2016; Sager 2016; Mendoza 2017; Duarte et al. 2018). Surprisingly children are largely absent in the philosophical debate – a few exceptions exist (for example Lister 2018) – and also the brand new “Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children” (Gheaus, Calder, and De Wispelaere 2018) includes no chapter on migration. Although it could be argued that some arguments and thoughts in the philosophical literature concerned with migration in general are also applicable to children, this is a significant gap in the current research because of the particular nature and (political, moral, social, legal) status of children. This lacuna in philosophy is surprising for at least three reasons: Firstly, outside of philosophy the situation of child migration receives significant attention (for example: Sedmak, Sauer, and Gornik 2018; Sonnert and Holton 2010; Ensor and Goździak 2016; Hunner-Kreisel and Bohne 2016; Kanics et al. 2010). Secondly, children receive as much attention as never before in philosophy, in particular in political philosophy (Bagattini and Macleod 2014; Gheaus, Calder, and De Wispelaere 2018). Thirdly, the moral and political status of migrating children appears to be of obvious interest both to many areas of philosophy – since it involves among others question of justice, rights and citizenship – and to the wider public (cf. the debate about the treatment of children at the borders of the states of the European Union or between the United States and Mexico)
This workshop aims to investigate a few of the most pressing philosophical questions surrounding child migration, in relation and contrast to adult migration. Six directions of inquiry can be distinguished here:
(a) Different types of child migration pose different questions. Children migrate voluntary and involuntary, are forced to flee their countries, and they are often victims of trafficking. Besides conceptual questions these different forms of migration also come with different challenges, risks and harms for the children. They demand differentiated solutions to protect children’s rights and needs.
(b) Children migrate alone, and in company together with other family members. The dependency of (young) children on their care-givers and guardians and the particular value of and right to family unity are another area of interest. For example, what particular rights should unaccompanied and separated minors have? How should they be treated in the context of border controls?
(c) Children are different to adults in some important aspects, although the normative relevance of these differences is in debate. Talking about child migration is not possible without reflecting on the child as a particular agent. In what respect are then theories and claims about adult migration applicable to children? What makes child migration special and does this justify special treatment? Are children always, as the UNICEF claims, the most vulnerable group?
(d) Child migration is an issue on the state and the global level (and also on the regional and local level). What particular obligations do individual states have towards migrating children – for example in regard to integration, citizenship or access to education and health care? Or should we better think about child migration as a problem of global justice, which demands coordinated actions of several states?
(e) Child migration is not an isolated phenomenon but closely connected to a vast range of injustices: war, poverty, exploitation, desertification, expulsion. It is also important to note that many children are not able to migrate (alone) and that they are stuck in their deprivation. And many children are left behind, most often with another family member or friends.
(f) Child migration, and the issues named so far, can be tackled from various normative perspectives. It can be positioned in a moral, political or legal framework, all of which can mobilize certain normative tools. To what extent are the existing political and legal tools adequate, for example the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Geneva Convention and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees?
- Mladjo Ivanovic, Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University
- Jonathan Josefsson, Lecturer, Child Studies, Linköping University
- Anna Malavisi, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy & Humanistic Studies, Western Connecticut State University
- Christine Straehle, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Philosophy, University of Ottawa
- John Wall, Professor and Chair in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Joint Appointment in the Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University Camden
May 1, 2019, 9:00am CET
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