EU Commission says protecting migrant children should be ‘top priority’.

The EU Commission, meeting In Brussels last week, has issued a detailed call for action to safeguard migrating children arriving in Europe. Adrian Voce reports.

The European Commission has set out the actions that it believes are necessary to reinforce the protection of ‘all children at all stages’ of the migratory process. These are important, it says, to ensure that migrant children are swiftly identified when they arrive in the EU and that they receive appropriate and adequate treatment.

Over the past two years, a growing number of migrant children have arrived in the EU, many of them without their families. In 2015 and 2016, 30 percent of asylum applicants in the EU were children. While EU and Member States’ legislation provide a solid framework for protection, the recent surge in arrivals has put national systems under pressure and exposed gaps and shortcomings. The Commission, via a number of conferences and reports has concluded that, as children in migration are exposed to high risks of violence, trafficking or exploitation along migration routes – or may go missing, or become separated from their families – they require a specific protection.

More effective safeguarding

The Commission says that this is why it needs to identify the actions to safeguard them more effectively. This includes ensuring trained personnel are available to assist children during their status determination and that children are provided with sustainable long-term perspectives through better access to education and health care.

Child protection is a central priority in the European Agenda on Migration and the Commission has said that it will continue to support Member States’ efforts through training, guidance, operational support and funding.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said:

“The number of children arriving in the EU with or without their families has increased dramatically. We need to make sure that children who need protection actually receive it. And we need to do it now. This is our moral duty as well as our legal responsibility. Children should be our top priority as they are the most vulnerable, especially when they have nobody to guide them. That is why today we are setting out a number of concrete actions to better protect, support and take care of the best interests of all children who are arriving in the European Union.”

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said:

“One in three asylum seekers in Europe is a child. Children are the most vulnerable migrants and ensuring their protection from the moment they leave their home countries should be mainstreamed in our migration policy. This means that we need a comprehensive and stepped-up response … Both the Commission and our EU agencies stand ready to move forward to implement these actions.”

Priorities for action

Drawing on expertise from all relevant policy areas, the Commission is proposing a number of priorities for Member States to focus on, supported by the Commission and EU Agencies, to improve the protection of children in migration and ensure a closer link between the asylum and child protection services. These are: swift identification and protection upon arrival; adequate reception conditions for children; swift status determination and effective guardianship; durable and sustainable solutions for children’s settlement and early integration; and addressing root causes and protecting children along migrant routes outside the EU.

The Commission concluded its announcement saying that ‘a determined, concerted and coordinated follow-up … is required at EU, national, regional and local level, also in cooperation with civil society and international organisations.The Commission will closely monitor this process and report regularly to the Council and European Parliament’.

Adrian Voce

Source: EU Commission press release

For more information:

Communication: The protection of children in migration

Commission Staff Working Document: Implementing the Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014)

Questions & Answers: Protecting Children in Migration

Factsheet: Actions for the protection of children in migration

All press material on the European Agenda on Migration

The Child in the City conference in Ghent, 2016, focused on migrant and refugee children as one of its themes. A summary of the conference’s conclusions and recommendations on the theme can be read here

Author: Adrian Voce

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