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In France, three million children in poverty and thirty thousand on the street…

Translated Saturday 11 July 2015, by Adrian Jordan

Two reports made public yesterday castigate France’s failure to apply the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. They make recommendations.

UNICEF and the Defender of Rights examined France’s application of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CCR), ratified in 1990. Published yesterday, their reports suggest there are three million children in poverty in France, thirty thousand of them homeless. “This work is a wake-up call which should push the French authorities into acting with urgency and in the most efficient manner for each child”, stressed Michèle Barzach, president of UNICEF France. For their part, the Defender of Rights [1], Jacques Toubon and his assistant for children’s affairs, Geneviève Avenard, are concerned over “significant difficulties for the most vulnerable children in accessing their rights”, whether they be poor, handicapped or immigrant.

The Defender of Rights and UNICEF noted “some misunderstanding” of the law and its “fundamental principles” in France. For example, impact studies, a legal obligation for all legislative projects since 2009, are not currently carried out in regards to children’s rights. Parliamentary action is necessary to ensure the success of the child protection bill now being examined in the Assembly and the youth justice bill which is currently being drafted. Amongst recommendations by the Defender of Rights, importance is given to effective schooling of all school-age children. Of primary concern are the children of immigrants: at the moment numerous municipalities refuse to enroll Roma children. Following the “marriage for all” law and midst ethnic debate, Jacques Toubon had no hesitation in recommending new measures to “guarantee” to surrogate children born abroad the ability to establish their parentage. Finally, sign of the times, he wished that the use of corporal punishment were “proscribed by law (...) in all contexts”.

The situation of isolated minors in the spotlight

UNICEF, stronger still, denounces the culpable absence of a national policy for children and adolescents and pleads heavily for “a targeted, comprehensive national strategy”. The NGO gives 36 recommendations to France. It particularly recommends the guarantee of equal access to education for children, the allocation of sufficient funds in working against school drop-out rates and also the establishment of counseling and support services for adolescents.

Like the Defender of Rights, UNICEF puts the accent on the unacceptable situation of migrant children who are isolated or living in slums. “Despite the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and repeated warnings from associations, the consideration of children’s rights remains completely unsatisfactory, leading to unacceptable situations”, rebuked Michèle Barzach.

[1Appointed by the President of the Republic, the “Défenseur des droits” is charged with ensuring respect for individual rights and liberties by the state and its agents.

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