Get children to safety & help them feel safe
Eurochild letter to Heads of EU institutions and our EU allies.
As the war in Ukraine continues to devastate the lives of 7.5 million children, Eurochild is working with our members in Ukraine, its neighbouring countries and across Europe by documenting their experience and conveying their concerns and demands to decision-makers in Brussels. These materials are available on our Solidarity with Children of Ukraine Hub. Our Spanish National Partnership Network (NPN), Plataforma de Infancia, has also set up a similar platform.
More than 1 million children have already fled Ukraine. There is an extraordinary mobilisation of citizens and civil society to offer solidarity through material support, volunteering and opening their homes to new arrivals. The desire to help is to be celebrated; however, it also presents enormous coordination challenges. We particularly acknowledge how our National Partnership Networks (NPNs) of children’s organisations in Romania (FONPC - Federaţia Organizaţiilor Neguvernamentale Pentru Copil) and Bulgaria (NNC - National Network for Children) are helping to coordinate relief efforts.
Members report chaos in some border crossings and are particularly concerned that all children need to be registered so their whereabouts can be tracked. Most children are travelling with their mothers or relatives, but some are arriving unaccompanied. Members in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland have all raised concerns about the heightened risk of trafficking and abuse of children fleeing Ukraine.
Our member Polina Klykova, a child rights expert based in Kyiv (Ukraine), highlighted how the risk of abuse and harm extends to the digital environment. In fact, children are spending extended periods of time online with limited adult supervision. There’s likely to be an over-exposure to violent content and increased risks of online grooming. Eurochild candidate member, Justice for Minors (Romania) highlights the urgent need for more psychosocial support and legal counselling at the border, as well as translators and translated material.
We have been supporting our partners in Ukraine for over a decade to reform their child protection system. But at the time of the invasion there were still around 100,000 children confined to institutions. There are very real concerns about the risk of ‘re-institutionalisation’, which is very harmful for children’s development (see our member Florence Koenderink’s blogs). The impact of the war will have untold consequences. Some of our members are supporting the evacuation of children out of Ukrainian institutions. For example Happy Kids Foundation and the Child and Family Foundation in Poland are working, not only to provide safe accommodation but also to ensure children get much needed medical, dental and psychological support.
Joint recommendations have been issued by our partners and several members (Hope and Homes for Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Partnership for Every Child). In particular, we echo the call to strengthen tracking systems to ensure all children in, or relocated from, institutions in Ukraine, as well as unaccompanied and separated children, are accounted for. Eurochild has been consistently calling for better monitoring tools and exchange of practice regarding children in alternative care. This emergency requires the EU to urgently strengthen coordination and cooperation between Member States’ authorities responsible for child protection.
EU funding should support a fast and coherent relief response and ensure resources are available to provide timely and quality psychosocial support to children and families fleeing the war. Eurochild welcomes adoption of the EU’s Cohesion Action for Refugees in Europe as well as flexibility introduced to the AMIF and FEAD funding. Additionally, our members call on national governments to work in close partnership with civil society on the ground to ensure resources go to where they are most needed. The EU should provide guidance and oversight to ensure national authorities’ partnership and support to civil society is open and transparent.
Europe is experiencing a child protection emergency on an unprecedented scale since WWII. At the same time Eurochild members are concerned not to lose sight of the ongoing needs of children across Europe. Several members highlighted the importance of training for professionals to help children understand the war, to welcome and integrate new arrivals, and also to prevent any discrimination and bullying of Russian-speaking children. Resources to help adults speak to children about the war are available on Eurochild’s Solidarity Hub.
Together with our members, Eurochild will continue to monitor the situation on the ground. We stand ready to work with governments at all levels to ensure children get to safety and are helped to feel safe. Children’s rights are not negotiable. They are the foundation on which Europe’s future is built.
Eurochild Secretary General