Migrant status should not lead to institutionalisation of children, Brussels event highlights

This was the message launched by child rights stakeholders, service providers and EU officials at the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign roundtable on migrant children, which took place at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 1 March 2016

Opening Doors Roundtable event, 1 March 2016

Migrant and refugee children have the same rights as other children, and their institutionalisation is incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is the message launched by child rights stakeholders, service providers and EU officials at the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign roundtable on migrant children, which took place at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 1 March 2016. The event was organised jointly with SOS Children’s Villages and hosted by Mr Luc Van den Brande. 

The current influx of refugees and migrants arriving at the shores are raising concerns around child protection. Almost 30% of asylum seekers are children and a growing number are unaccompanied children. Approximately 10,000 migrant children may have disappeared after entering in Europe according to Europol.

Providing quality care in the first hours can prevent children going missing and protect them from violence and exploitation, the event highlighted.  “Short term emergency responses need to keep long term consequences in mind” said Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, Opening Doors leading partner.

Civil society experts from children and refugee rights organisations from Sweden, Austria and Greece presented the situation on the ground reporting key critical issues. For example, in Austria unaccompanied migrant children are treated differently and do not have the same rights as other children, said Stefan Bauer of FICE Austria. In Greece, migrant children aged 7-15 years are kept in detention centres where they are not offered formal education nor Greek language classes. This creates detachment from the local community, said Moawia Achment of the Greek Forum of Migrants.

It emerged that there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ and that individualized care according to the child’s needs is crucial. Specialised training for practitioners and interpreters dealing with unaccompanied children is necessary. Experience shows that children tend to trust people who speak their language or who share the same cultural background. 

Eurochild will prepare a position paper, jointly with SOS Children’s Villages to take forward the issues discussed at the roundtable.