Council of Europe: ‘Cities must do all they can to protect child refugees’

UNICEF/UN0605554/Remp Families arrive in Berdyszcze, Poland, after crossing the border from Ukraine.

The Council of Europe (CoE), which oversees the implementation of human rights across the continent, has urged cities to do all they can to protect refugee children.

Cities and municipalities have a ‘responsibility’ to provide arriving refugee women and children with access to essential public services, especially housing, medical care and education, says the council.

This clarion call across the EU has come from CoE Congress ‘rapporteurs’ – or representatives – on women and children refugees, Bernd Vöhringer, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities (Germany, EPP/CCE), Annika Vaikla, Estonia.

In a statement marking World Refugee Day – and with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the resulting displacement of child refugees a constant presence – they underlined the ‘crucial role of local and regional authorities in the reception, protection and integration of refugees’.

‘How to address the specific challenges’

“However, refugees are not a homogenous group, which means that cities and regions constantly have to develop and adapt reception policies according to changing realities and demographics,” said the rapporteurs, adding that there was a need for support from central governments to address the issue.

“As a result of the war in Ukraine, almost 90 per cent of refugees arriving in Europe’s towns and regions are women and children, who are especially vulnerable. As mayors, city councillors and regional representatives, we have a duty to protect them and ensure that their human rights are respected.”

The statement continued: “To support cities and regions across Europe in providing a safe haven for women and children refugees, the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress is currently preparing a report on the issue. “With this report, we want to provide guidance to our members on how to address the specific challenges faced by women and children on the run.”

The two rapporteurs, together with the chair of the CoE’s Current Affairs Committee will visit Poland early next month to look at how best those taking in refugees can best meet the needs of women and children.

“We hope that this visit will help us better understand the needs of cities and regions who receive women and children refugees, so that we can deliver the best possible guidance in our report,” they concluded.

Click here for more about the work of the CoE Rapporteur groups

Author: Simon Weedy

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