Mr. President, dear colleagues,
First, I would like to thank the rapporteurs for these excellent rapports.
UNICEF estimates that there were about 36 million migrant children in 2020, fleeing war, climate change or perhaps leaving their homes in the hope of a better future. Whatever the reason, a child is still only a child: in need of protection, care and support.
I am especially pleased that Ms Mezentseva’s report focusses on care and leaving care for unaccompanied migrant children. Experiences of war, displacement and migration in childhood can become an intergenerational trauma for both children and parents, passed on to future generations. Therefore, long-term transition plans are vital to support refugee children in their integration after reaching adulthood.
I fully agree that whenever possible, reuniting children with their families should be our top priority. It is important for a child’s good mental development to be able to establish safe and lasting relationships with close caregivers, and for a child’s linguistic development, to be able to speak and study their own mother tongue. These ingredients give a child a better foundation to cope with the uncertainty that fleeing home certainly brings to one’s life.
As an example, let me share with you the experiences of Finnish war children. During the Second World War nearly 80 000 unaccompanied children aged 1-14 were evacuated from Finland to our Nordic neighbors. Their stories underline the profound effects of displacement on their families, friends, relatives, and schools. On the other hand, their stories show how strong the relationships to their new families and new countries had become. Many Finnish children experienced a new trauma when pulled away from their new siblings, new (wealthier) homes, schools and new language. Many of them had forgotten Finnish, their mother tongue.
Children’s wellbeing depends on more than sufficient food, care and safe circumstances. To support their psychological development, children need safe and stable relationships with their carers. For the children’s linguistical development it is important to be able to speak your native language. When we make decisions on today’s war children and refugees, we could take advantage of the lessons learnt from the experiences, stories and destinies of Finnish war children and their families.