20 November Universal Child Rights Day.
On a global scale, the refugee and displacement crisis has been the main cause of concern in terms of child rights in recent years. According to UNHCR in 2015, 65.3 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. About half of this figure is made up of children. This figure is 5.8 million more than the previous year (59.5 million).
It is an on-going mission of SOS Children’s Village Northern Cyprus to promote the rights of children in the northern part of the country. We strive to create a natural family environment for children who have lost family care. We also support families at risk of separation. As part of our child advocacy work, we try to measure the child rights situation in the northern part of the country, in order to establish where help is most needed and what actions should be taken.
Our latest study, conducted in 2015 by Prologue, shows that the groups in greater need for support are mostly those who are isolated from the society due to economic, social and other reasons. These include children of migrants who enter North Cyprus under tourist or student visas and work illegally, children of seasonal workers, children of refugees, and children who have committed a crime and been sent to prison.
A study done by the US Embassy in 2015 also outlines that migrants, refugees, and their children in northern Cyprus are at risk for sexual exploitation.
According to KADEM’s study for SOS in 2009, there are 6,870 children under risk. Our studies also show that the major problem facing young people in the country is an absence of rehabilitation services for juvenile delinquents. Thus 25% of prisoners in Nicosia Central Prison are young people aged between 18 and 26. According to the Annual Report of the Social Welfare Department, 67% of young delinquents in the northern part of the country reside in Kyrenia.
To target these groups at risk, SOS Children’s Village will soon launch the Kyrenia Youth and Resource Centre, which aims to improve the employability of young disadvantaged people. The project, which is funded by the European Union under the Innovation and Change in Education VI programme, will also offer activities open to the public. To tackle another target group in need, SOS Children’s Village is in the beginning stage of a new partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help integrate refugees in the northern part of the island into the community and strengthen their living conditions. 20 November Universal Child Rights Day marks the day on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, before it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the
Child on that same day in 1989. Child rights, however, should not be remembered just on this day. They should be considered every day and in every area of our lives.
Lastly, we as SOS Children’s Village are greatly concerned about the welfare of children in Turkey, following the latest developments regarding a bill that seems to legitimise the sexual abuse of children. We fully oppose the bill that allow men accused of raping underage girls to be cleared if they marry the girl, and hope that such a bill will not be seriously considered by the parliament.