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Statement of UNHCR policy as regards unattached youth among Hungarian refugees

Speeches and statements

Statement of UNHCR policy as regards unattached youth among Hungarian refugees

31 January 1957
Dr. Auguste R. Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at the 4th Session of the United Nations Refugee Fund (UNREF) Executive Committee

1. The policy of my Office as regards unaccompanied children is determined by two principles - the principle of family unity and the principle that the best interests of the child shall be the determining factor in deciding on the movement of a refugee child. It follows Resolution 157 (VII) of the Economic and Social Council, adopted on 24 August 1948, the operative part of which reads:

"The ECOSOC expresses its view that the policy which should be followed with regard to unaccompanied children is:

(a) To unite children with their parents wherever the latter may be; and

(b) In the case of orphan or unaccompanied children whose nationality has been established beyond a doubt, to return them to their country, always providing that the best interests of the individual child shall be the determining factor."

2. Only in so far as a minor can be regarded as a refugee does he come within my mandate. This cannot be decided according to a fixed age limit, but it has to be determined in each case according to its merits. Where a minor is regarded as a refugee the principles of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951 will apply to him, i.e. in particular the personal status of the person will be governed by the law of his country of residence. The guardianship authorities of the country of residence are, therefore, competent to authorize the movement of a person under age. It is my task, in the exercise of the function of international protection, to see that in this decision the principles which I have mentioned are taken into account. This means that where the parents can be traced the child should normally be united with his parents; where the minor person is an orphan or his parents cannot be traced the best interests of the minor are to determine the decision as regards his movement to another country.

3. In accordance with the outlined policy I have instructed all Branch Offices that no movement of unaccompanied children may be effected without the approval of the competent authorities.

4. The implementation of this policy is within the competence of the authorities of the country in which the children find themselves. My Offices is not in a position to determine in any particular case whether a child shall or shall not be moved, or to what country he shall be moved. This is the responsibility of the authorities of the country in which the child is found. My Office can only advise the authorities concerned, and in the case of Hungarian refugee children a procedure has been worked out with the International Red Cross whereby the International Red Cross has agreed to investigate in each case of an unaccompanied child whether or not the parents are living in Hungary and whether the parents wish the child to be returned.

5. If the parents of an unaccompanied child cannot be traced, it is, in my opinion, essential that the authorities of the countries of residence take steps to see that the necessary legal authority is given to the movement of a child to another country.