Significant numbers of children from third countries migrate to Europe, for a variety of reasons, travelling with their families, alone or separated from their family. Between January and August 2015 alone, 174,235 children sought asylum in the European Union, representing one in four asylum seekers.
Over the past few months, several European Council as well as Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Council meetings have been convened to discuss and develop immediate responses and policies to address the recent increase in migrants and refugees arriving to Europe.
Eurochild, together with other leading organisations in the fields of human rights, child rights, health and social inclusion, including UNICEF, OHCHR and the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children, wrote an open letter to raise concerns over the lack of attention afforded to children’s rights in these policy discussions and developments. Children should be treated equal, regardless of their migratory status, nationality or background. Yet the current package of policies reinforces a very differentiated treatment of children. Child rights safeguards and impact assessment must therefore be integrated in all migration-related policy and practice.
Together, we call on the EU and its member states to implement the following ten actions:
1. Consider children’s rights and views, and guarantee their best interests when making decisions,including on immigration and asylum applications and in any decision to move a child or family to another country. The best interests of the child must never be outweighed by migration and border control concerns.
2. Meet immediate humanitarian and reception needs, while also investing in systemic reform toensure access to services in a sustainable way, and to facilitate integration.
3. Ensure that all children have non-discriminatory access to services, such as health care, including mental health, and education, and have adequate accommodation together with their family.
4. Ensure effective protection of all children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation anddiscrimination, including gender-based, and access to justice for acts of violence or other rights violations.
5. Ensure that no child is detained or subject to other punitive measures because of their or their parent’s residence or migration status.
6. Protect family unity when in the child’s best interests, including by ensuring that no child is separatedfrom a parent by immigration-related detention.
7. Provide adequate search and rescue and humanitarian assistance to prevent all avoidable deaths,whether at sea or on land.
8. Provide regular and safe ways for children and their families to come to Europe to seek protection
and join family members and open more rights-respecting avenues for work and study.
9. Ensure that all agreements with countries of origin and transit include child rights safeguards and pay particular attention to the needs and rights of children. Children and their families should not be returned to a country where there is a risk of human rights violation (non-refoulement).
10. Empower children to access justice, and have their views heard, including through providing information and access to legal representation in all proceedings that can affect their status, rights and freedoms.
Read the Joint open letter to the European Council here.