Nobel Peace Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi appealed to president Donald Trump to protect the children of undocumented migrants living in the United States and keep the door open to refugees fleeing wars.
Last week Trump issued an executive order suspending refugee admissions for 120 days, barring Syrian refugees indefinitely and imposing a 90-day suspension on citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations.
He has also threatened to deport the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
“I hope and wish and appeal to him that children of so-called illegal immigrants living in the U.S. should be safe in any situation … Children are no danger for anyone anywhere in the world, and their protection will help in making the world better,” said Satyarthi.
“The success story of America has been built by the people who reached there from all over the world,” he said on the sidelines of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Bogota. “I hope that this history will be kept in mind.”
Satyarthi, an Indian activist awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, said children who have fled war are at heightened risk of forced labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking.
He cited the example of children of families from Syria who have fled the country’s nearly six-year-old war to seek refuge in neighbouring Turkey.
There are nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“I have personally met a number of them and have found that they were working on the streets … working as slaves,” Satyarthi said. “Somebody has paid some money and taken them to work as child labourers or as child bonded labourers.”
Over the last 30 years, Kailash has freed more than 80,000 child labourers working in brick kilns, garment factories, mines and brothels across India.
Worldwide there are about 5.5 million children born into servitude, trafficked for sex, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour, according to the International Labour Organization.
Growing numbers of boys and girls are also being enslaved by armed extremist and fundamentalist groups like Islamic State and the Taliban, Satyarthi said.
“Young people are being radicalised and misused to become a kind of child soldier or suicide bomber … These terrorist groups are also using the young girls as prostitutes and they are kidnapping them and selling them for very cheap prices.”