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MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES PRESS RELEASE

Contacts Press :
In Erevan : Christian Ferrier – Head of Mission MSF France – 53B, Ayguedzor
street – Yerevan – Tel: 27 64 45
In Paris : Isabelle Ferry – Information officer – 8 street St Sabin – 75011
Paris – Tel : (00-33) – (0) 1 – 40-21-27-50

What does the future hold for children in difficulty in Armenia ? MSF is
closing its «children in difficulty programme» and is worried about the
future of these children.

Erevan/Paris, Tuesday 22nd June 2004 РM̩decins Sans Fronti̬res is closing
its mission for children in difficulty which it has been running for seven
years in the Vardashen special educational complex and the streets of
Yerevan. Médecins Sans Frontières considers that it is now up to the
authorities to reform the ‘Centres Républicains d’Education Spéciales’
(CRES) and the care system provided for families and children in social
difficulty.

Through the work carried out over the years in Vardashen by its
pluridisciplinary teams (doctors, psychologists, special educationalists,
legal advisors…) Médecins Sans Frontières has shown that there is an
alternative to the violent, repressive methods employed in the CRES: an
educational approach that is based on the respect of the child as an
individual and his rights. Médecins Sans Frontières has also demonstrated in
its prevention programme that by providing direct assistance to families in
difficulty, most children could stay in their families. They therefore no
longer went begging to earn their keep and were no longer in danger of being
placed in an institution for juvenile delinquents which is totally
inappropriate for them.

The results and conclusions of this work were shared with the Armenian
authorities during a conference organised by Médecins Sans Frontières, in
September 2003, on the protection of these children and their future.
However, it is clear that despite all the declarations made on that day,
little has changed. No formal political measures have been implemented to
try and find alternatives to the abusive placement of children in these
institutions and to transform the CRES into social rather than repressive
institutions.

Although there have been some concrete developments, such as the adoption of
internal regulations ratified by the minister or extra staff on night duty
in the CRES Vardashen, they are nevertheless totally insufficient.

The ill-treatment of children in the CRES continues and once again violence
was reported last September in Vardashen. In a second CRES, Noubarashen,
despite public denunciations, nothing has been done to stop the violence
perpetrated against children nor to change the methods employed to educate
the children placed there.

Concerning the status of the CRES and the stigmatisation of the children who
are placed there, the Armenian authorities have not provided any answers to
the questions asked nine months ago : despite the fact that 95% of the
children in Vardashen are placed there because of social difficulties and
not for offenses, the amalgam between social difficulties and delinquency
persists.

With respect to helping children in difficulty to avoid institutional
placement, nothing has yet been undertaken to aid those in need to keep
children from being separated from their families. It is vital and urgent
that the authorities make in-depth reforms to provide these children with
suitable care. Below, Médecins Sans Frontières goes over the main points
discussed in September 2003.

RECOMMANDATIONS

After working for seven years in the Vardashen CRES and four years with
children in difficulty, and their families, in Yerevan, MSF would like to
show that there is an alternative way of caring for children in difficulty
in Armenia.

So that these children in social difficulty can hope for a decent future in
Armenia, Médecins Sans Frontières suggests the following:

1 – The CRES should be replaced by open institutions The institutions do not
currently offer enough guarantees that the children will not suffer violence
during placement.

2 – Where possible the return of children to their families must be
organised In collaboration with local services (schools, night schools, day
centres, NGOs and community associations), the priority should be to keep
the child in the family circle by providing the family with direct
assistance.

3 – Children who cannot stay with their family should be placed in open
institutions near their homes. By staying close to their homes family ties
with the child can be maintained; the children can thus continue their
education in a normal schooling environment outside the institution.

5 – Overall reform of the child placement system, emphasising maintaining
children in their families and finding alternatives to placing children in
institutions.

Firstly the status of the ‘Commissions d’Orientation des Mineurs’ must be
clarified and they should be able to collaborate with the social and
educational services at home as well as in the day centres.

For children in danger, as for juvenile delinquents (a juvenile delinquent
is also a child in danger), veritable legal protection of juveniles with
special jurisdictions (judges and juvenile courts) must be set up.