The Right to Family Reunification of Displaced Children in Armed Conflict: Crossing Legal Borders in the Implementation of International Humanitarian and Human Right Law
Children as a minority group are understandably and predictably strongly affected by armed conflict. This negative experience becomes very precarious for these children in situations where they are separated from their families. As a preliminary remark, it should be acknowledged that while the effects of armed conflict are not always discernible and quantifiable in children, they remain present and multi-dimensional to such an extent that it would be extremely ambitious for any legal or normative framework to pretend to tackle them holistically. For those separated from their families, the risk of abuse and exploitation almost mathematically increases. In that sense, the quality of the experiences does not differ fundamentally between Internally Displaced Children or refugee children in that they are both deprived of their primary role model, their parents. In legal terms, however, internally displaced children do not benefit from the same level of protection that the status of refugee affords. The otherwise clear-cut legal distinction between IDPs and refugees appears, nevertheless, increasingly complicated to distinguish in its practice as both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ conflicts result often in refugee flows into the neighbouring countries. Although there is no constant pattern in the way that children are affected by each type of conflict, statistically over 20 million children have been displaced by war within and outside their respective countries. This figure serves well the purpose of indicating the size and urgency surrounding child displacement. Against an admittedly gloomy picture, the aim of this article is to discuss the legal aspects of the protection of separated children from both the viewpoint of international humanitarian law as well as of international human rights law under the Cameroonian point of view, in which due to the current crisis inflating the country, there has been a sporadic rise in the displacement of persons, and children in general from the two English Speaking regions. The main question addressed, through the comparative study of the two legal frameworks, will concern the compatibility and complementarities of the two regimes but also their responsiveness and adequacy for current humanitarian crises.
Do the two regimes award similar or contradictory rights? Do they result in the creation of legal gaps? Or do they simply follow radically different orientations?