Poverty, schooling, mental health, violence: a report by Unicef France published this Sunday deplores a “worrying” situation in France.
More than one child in five lives below the poverty line and more than 42,000 are homeless: France still needs to make progress to guarantee children’s rights, especially those of the most vulnerable, according to Unicef, in an unprecedented report published this Sunday.
Social and territorial inequalities prevent “too many children from having access to school, health services or protection”, said Unicef France in a statement accompanying the report, on the occasion of the International Day of Children’s Rights.
In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, Unicef France president Adeline Hazan said that children “with disabilities” and “the 5,700 [minors] living in shantytowns” face difficulties in accessing education. “The most vulnerable children, whether in situations of extreme poverty, disability, or victims of violence, are struggling to have their most basic rights guaranteed,” added the organization, which is preparing a report for experts on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The health crisis has also worsened the living conditions of the minors. During the initial lockdown, violence against children increased. “The number of calls to 119 to report a minor in danger had exploded”, recalls the president of the French branch. This is a clear statement supported by UNICEF, which states that “every five days, a child is killed by one of his parents”.
In addition, France uses practices contrary to the principles of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, such as the administrative detention of children when families in an irregular situation are to be expelled, Unicef denounces.
Since 2012, at least 33,786 children have been placed in detention, the vast majority in Mayotte and 1,460 in metropolitan France.
“The situation is worrying. Minors are not sufficiently protected in France, they can not sufficiently live their lives as children,” commented to AFP Adeline Hazan, president of Unicef France. She believes that the detention of children in detention centers for foreigners should be “prohibited”.
In her interview with the JDD, Adeline Hazan also denounces the difficulties of access of children to mental health. “We have to wait six months to a year and a half to get an appointment in a medical-psychological center,” she deplores. Yet, “the consequences are sometimes dramatic, leading to hospitalization of children or adolescents.”
The association recognizes improvements since 2016, when France was last evaluated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. For example, it highlights the development of public policies targeting children. However, Unicef regrets that these policies are “very scattered,” which hinders “their legibility” and “their effectiveness.” The organization proposes several solutions, including the creation of a Ministry for Children and the investment of 1.5 billion euros over five years.