U.N. Urged to Protect Refugee Children from Sexual Abuse

New Norms Are Not Enough, Says Vatican Aide

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GENEVA, OCT. 4, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican highlighted the situation of refugee children and adolescents, who constitute 45% of the world’s refugees and are threatened by sexual abuse.

The appeal was made this week by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. office in Geneva, when he addressed the 53rd Session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Vatican aide called for greater protection for the millions who have had to abandon their homes and countries, and described the “institutions of asylum and international protection” as being “among the principal acquisitions of contemporary juridical culture.”

In particular, the archbishop emphasized “the protection of children.”

“Refugee children, including adolescents under 18, constitute about 45% of all refugees,” he said. “They are among the most vulnerable of the refugee population. The serious allegations regarding sexual exploitation of refugee children clearly point to the need of a continual review of the policies of UNHCR and all its partners in this area.”

“New norms and new codes of practice, however necessary, will not on their own provide an answer to this challenge,” he warned.

“A fundamental cultural change is necessary,” the archbishop emphasized. “Sexual exploitation in emergency situations is not inevitable. Sexual violence is not an inevitable dimension of conflict.”

“The community of nations affirms today with renewed vigor that the systematic use of sexual violence in armed conflict is a crime against humanity,” he said. “It must affirm with equal clarity that sexual exploitation, of children or adults, by humanitarian operators remains equally unacceptable.”

“The globalization of the economy requires, and will inevitably lead to, a new understanding of the place of migration,” he continued.

“At a time when there is a growing recognition of the fact that intelligent, more open and transparent migration policies can be in the interest of both developed and developing economies, there is often a lack of the corresponding political courage needed to address the question,” the archbishop lamented.

“The lack of intelligent immigration policies only increases the likelihood of the trafficking of persons, while vast resources are diverted to counteracting the movement of those who might in fact bring a useful contribution to the economic and social progress in the host country,” he explained.

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