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IMMIGRATION

Kids in cages: Geneva protest urges UN action on Trump migration policy

Teenagers huddled in a cage outside the UN in Geneva on Monday, as protesters demanded that the world body address the "unconscionable" US policy of separating migrant families crossing its southern border.

Kids in cages: Geneva protest urges UN action on Trump migration policy
Observers say many children separated from their parents remain in US custody Photo: AFP

Three teens wearing t-shirts with “#ClassroomsNotCages” scrawled across the front stood inside a small cage erected outside the gates of the United Nations's European headquarters, as dozens of demonstrators urged the UN Human Rights Council take on President Donald Trump's administration.

“The action today is about creating more pressure and more exposure of just how terrible and dehumanising this policy of the American government is towards children,” said Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, which helped organise the protest.

Photo: AFP

“What the Trump administration is doing is both lawless and immoral, and because it is so focused on children, it is unconscionable,” she told the AFP news agency.

The union was among 15 labour organisations and rights groups that filed a complaint a year ago with the UN's top rights body over the Trump administration's so-called “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant 
parents and children who illegally cross the border.

According to the complainants, the issue has reached the final stages of the Human Rights Council's review process, and its Situations Working Group is scheduled to consider it this week.

The rights council secretariat refused to comment, telling AFP only that its complaint procedure is “by definition confidential”.

The complainants are meanwhile hoping the council will issue an opinion “and make it clear that what has happened in America is a violation of the international protocols and international rights declarations,” Weingarten said.

'Purposefully cruel'

Amid domestic and international outcry, Trump announced last June that his administration would halt the family separation policy.

But by then, thousands of children had been removed from family members and placed in temporary accommodation, leading to harrowing images and reports of administrative chaos in which many parents have been unable to find their children.

Observers say many of those children remain in US custody, and maintain that the separations are continuing.

“We know kids are still being separated. We know kids are still being held,” Weingarten said.

Sandra Cordero, who heads the organisation “Families Belong Together” that has been working to reunite many of the separated families, agreed.

“There are still hundreds of cases of separation,” she told AFP.

And out of the 2,500 children who were separated in the months prior to Trump's announcement last June, “there are still hundreds that have not been reunited or even contacted,” she said.

Activists also decry the “deplorable” conditions in many of the places where separated children are being held, and point to the fact that at least six children, between the ages of two and a half and 16, have died in US custody.

And Cordero especially slammed the government's “purposefully cruel” failure to establish a system to keep track of the children and ensure family reunification would be possible. 

Weingarten meanwhile said that Monday's demonstration was important to keep the spotlight on the plight of the children – some just months old – taken from their families.

“We need to keep that level of outrage alive,” she said.

“That is the only way this is going to be change.”

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IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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