Children in migration: European Commission releases framework for protection

This communication offers recommendations for all children in migration, whether unaccompanied or with families; it calls for protecting children's best interests throughout their journey, from their arrival in Europe to integration.

The European Commission released its first ever, comprehensive framework for protection of children in migration. The Communication offers a useful set of cross-cutting principles and recommendations aiming to protect the rights of all children in migration, whether they arrive separated or with families; it addresses the challenges faced by children throughout their  journey from arrival in Europe to integration. 

This is a very welcome and long overdue Communication from the Commission.  Now it’s time for EU Member States to take note and implement the policy guidelines.  The main disappointment is that the Commission fell short of banning child detention. In our view, detention is not compliant with children’s rights and should never be used, not even as a ‘last resort’.” – Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild.

Eurochild welcomes this communication and urges national, local and regional authorities and civil society actors to work together to implement the recommendations so that children arriving in Europe are assured a safe and nurturing space. 

Children are first and foremost children and their rights should not be dependant on their status. Eurochild particularly welcomes the fact that this communication emphasises the principles of non-discrimination and the best interests of the child which must be the primary consideration in all actions or decisions concerning children.

We are glad to see that the Communication clearly calls on EU Member States to “ensure that a range of alternative care options for unaccompanied children, including foster/family-based care are provided”. Eurochild advocates for alternatives to institutional care for children in migration. Our joint Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign with four other international partners, Hope and Homes for Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, FICE Europe, IFCO, calls upon all States to ban the use of institutional care as a means to meeting the basic needs of children in migration. The types and quality of care should be the same for all children regardless of their migration status. Care options provided to migrant, unaccompanied  and separated children should meet their individual needs. 

We also welcome that the Communication foresees the training of professionals working with children, including communicating with children in a gender, age- and context- appropriate manner. However, we urge that such training focuses on educating children about their own rights, including their right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Short term emergency responses need to keep long term consequences in mind” was the message of our last year’s roundtable on the care of children in migration. We welcome the guidelines highlighting the importance of durable solutions and sharing of good practices. Eurochild is working together with SOS Children’s Villages International to compile good practices on integration of children in migration. The publication, to be launched by autumn of 2017, will function as source of inspiration for government and civil society actors.  

Last but certainly not least, Eurochild welcomes the provision of EU funds for implementing the recommendations. However, to ensure that EU funds are not used for detention or to create segregated neighborhoods, the European Commission should work together with the Member States in order to monitor how EU funds are spent in line with the EU policy and the guiding principles of human rights law.   

Eurochild and its membership looks forward to the next European Child Rights Forum in November 2017 to address the issue of alternatives to detention.

Read about the varied challenges faced by children on the move, from the perspective of child rights professionals, “Turning the tide”