Every morning I wake up to the radio – either World Service or Radio 4. There’s something about the intimacy of radio that I find so much more affecting than TV, which seems more passive, somehow.
Usually I half listen as I get ready and dash out the door. But this morning a report on the release of child soldiers from a militant group in South Sudan made me sit down and listen to the very end. (It also made me cry, which is reassuring as a video of a panda playing with a ball yesterday left me unmoved. So I’m not stone cold to the bone, apparently.)
The children, as young as ten, were being released because of a deal struck between the militant group and the government. What was so arresting was the reporter’s description of the happy children going over to be received by UNICEF, still dressed in their fatigues. They sang, they danced. The reporter marvelled at how young they were…and how much younger they looked. It was a beautiful story of children getting another chance to be kids, to start their lives over. I cannot begin to fathom what they’ve seen and been forced to do.
A couple of days ago I read a blog by barrister Colin Yeo about how the good character requirement is being used to refuse citizenship to hundreds of children, including 25 children aged 10-13.
“What could the 25 children aged 10-13 have done to be refused on character grounds? Or, to look at it another way, what child can truly be said to to be of “good character” (the statutory requirement) at that age anyway?”
“Citizenship is turning into a key battleground for protecting individual rights. Citizens enjoy reasonable protection against arbitrary interference with their rights by the State. Non citizens do not. The State is responding by refusing citizenship to wider class of people and by taking it away from those it considers “fifth columnists”.” – Colin Yeo
All of these kids has their own story. Who knows what they’ve experienced? What can we say about their character at such a young age? And how can it count against them in a decision that will affect the rest of their lives?