This practical handbook for professionals working with children affected by migration or otherwise on the move has been prepared by the Council of Europe Children’s Rights Division in the context of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021) and the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children (2017-2019).
Many individuals, children and professionals in various Council of Europe member states have collaborated with the Children’s Rights Division in the development of this handbook.
Lack of accurate information disempowers refugees and migrants. Without trustworthy sources of accurate information, refugees and migrants experience additional stress and anxiety; they feel lost and have no understanding of what is happening or what will happen to them.
Lack of accessible information also puts states in competition with smugglers and other criminal networks on communicating about migration pathways. The problem is even more serious when it comes to refugee and migrant children, especially if they are unaccompanied or separated from their families. To provide information to children is more than handing them a brochure on rights and procedures. It means talking to them
in a way that they understand, depending on their age, gender and culture. It means building a relationship of trust. It means helping them make sense of what they are facing when they arrive in Europe. The reality is that information, when it is available, most often is not provided in a child-friendly and age-appropriate manner. This is why Council of Europe member states adopted, in May 2017, an Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe to provide a comprehensive response to various problems identified in terms of access to rights and procedures and protection from different forms of violence and integration. As a priority action it aims to support Council of Europe member states in promoting good migration policies by ensuring that all children in a migration context are provided with relevant information on their rights and on procedures, in a child-friendly manner. In this sense, this handbook is a practical guide for frontline professionals on how to accompany a child at each stage of his or her journey: from arrival at our borders to finding durable solutions towards integrating into the host country. The handbook off ers food for thought and practical applications to encourage professionals to think critically about how they communicate with children and to encourage the respect of their rights, including the right to be heard and to participate in the procedures affecting them. Empowering children to access their rights through child-friendly information is a key step towards increasing their protection from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. It is taking them out of a precarious and dangerous situation and steering them to a safer future.
Migrant and refugee children continue to be one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe today. Access to information has repeatedly been found to be inadequate, with the consequence that children and teenagers cannot access their rights or understand the procedures affecting them . This handbook has been developed to equip professionals and volunteers who interact with migrant and refugee children to communicate in a child-friendly way about their rights and the procedures affecting them. Through this handbook, professionals and volunteers will understand how to apply international children’s rights in national contexts. The concrete steps outlined in this guide explore how professionals and volunteers can serve the best interests of the child by ensuring the child’s right to information and their right to be heard are effective.