Ombudsman stresses steps for welfare of street children

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi has directed all agencies of the federal government to implement the recommendations of the study report “Plight of Street Children” in Islamabad prepared by the task force constituted by him.

Addressing a press conference at his office wherein the background of the study, its salient findings and key recommendations were highlighted, he vowed to ensure implementation of the recommendations. He said: “Children are our future. They have to take care of the country in the future. The problem of street children is becoming a problem of our society and it is the duty of all of us to make efforts for their better future.” The research was conducted by Syeda Viqarun Nisa Hashmi, advisor/grievance commissioner for children, and her team. The research is to be taken as a pilot project which will be replicated in other parts of the country. The research revealed that child labour/beggary was an outcome of extreme poverty, homelessness/ abandonment of children, etc. It is predominately a lucrative family business of some communities and begging rings.

The field data revealed that 91% children were living with their families/guardians (generally the migrants from Northern Areas, nomads termed Changar and refugees) while 9% were homeless. The medical examination of the street children revealed serious issues of malnourishment, drug addiction, sexual abuse, skin diseases and even HIV. The report indicates that the present mechanism for the shelter, welfare and development of children in need is inadequate. The shelter facilities are meant only for boys. The internal trafficking of children is not recognized as an offence.The report indicates that there is neither a legal provision relating to ban on child labour nor a provision of minimum age for light work, which is in non-compliance with the ILO Convention. It says that violation of laws relating to children’s employment were witnessed. There is no child court in ICT and there is only one model police station in ICT with a desk for children. The task force noted that from 1991 to May 2022, only 597 adult beggars and their facilitators were put behind the bars. Challans were submitted in 98.99% cases, leading to conviction in 98.09% and acquittal in 1.9%, yet scores of beggars were witnessed across the city.

The report also indicates that 11,681 street children in ICT had been picked by the police from January 2020 to May 2022. Therefore, the children are released in the evening. The report recommended a robust mechanism for the rescue and care of children in need, registration of refugees on a priority basis and basic facilities of health and education regardless of their status. The report also recommended training of police and CPI officials to rescue street children.