Ninth annual Howard Adelman Lecture explores child migration

On May 10, the Centre for Refugee Studies will present the ninth annual Howard Adelman Lecture with a talk by Jacqueline Bhabha on child migration issues.

Jacqueline Bhabha
Jacqueline Bhabha

Bhabha, who is a professor of the practice of health and human rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, will present “Unaccompanied Minors, Separated Children, Children on the Move, What Next? The Need for a New Paradigm for Distress Child Migration” from 4:30 to 6pm in Moot Court (room 1005), Osgoode Hall Law School.

Migration experts have noted for more than a decade that the vast majority of migrant journeys are best classified as ‘mixed migration’. The motives propelling people to leave their homes are typically varied and multi-dimensional – a combination of immediate triggers and less proximate desires and aspirations.

This observation applies to the migration of children, whether accompanied or travelling alone, as much as it does to the migration of adults.

Most children leaving home are departing from stressful or intolerable circumstances but are also intent on exploring new opportunities or taking advantage of apparently enticing chances. Yet, the international, regional and domestic migration regimes governing these movements are dominated by  dichotomous concepts drawn from a legal regime crafted 75 years ago  – refugee/economic migrant, legal/illegal, trafficked/smuggled, genuinely related or not.

Child migrants with complex, multifaceted and perhaps changing motives are thus forced into legal straightjackets that correspond to official administrative silos processing their applications but that ill-serve their protection needs.

The “surge” of Central American child migration to the U.S. over the summer of 2014, and the exodus of Syrian and other middle eastern refugees into Europe including unprecedented numbers of children over spring/summer/fall 2015, have highlighted the breakdown of the established migration paradigm and the urgent need for a new one.

What should the central elements of a new child migration paradigm be? What elements of the current system could be reformed? What new structures and policies are essential for progress on these issues?

Bhabha is also Harvard FXB director of research, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, and an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the author of Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age (2014).

The event is sponsored by the Division of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School, Department of Social Science, Department of Humanities & the Children’s Studies Program, School of Public Policy and Administration, and York Institute for Health Research.

This annual lecture was inaugurated in 2008 and is intended to honour founding CFR director Howard Adelman, one of the pioneers of the field of refugee and forced migration studies and one of its foremost authorities.