New guidance for EU border officials on protecting migrant children


The rights of children as they move across the frontiers of Europe are the focus of a new paper aimed at border officials.

Children in Migration, Fundamental rights at European borders summarises the main safeguards of European law in so far as they apply to migrant children at the external borders of the EU and of the Council of Europe (CoE).

Covering the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and EU law, this note is a joint effort between the CoE and European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), both of which are dedicated to championing the rights of migrants.

Although CoE and EU Member States have the right to control the entry of non-nationals into their territory, states must, when exercising border control, must protect the fundamental rights of everyone, regardless of their nationality, status, or age in accordance with their obligations under international and EU law.

‘Children require extra protection’

The key consideration here is that children require extra protection, as they are particularly vulnerable with special needs.

Leyla Kayacik, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees for the CoE, said: “There is an increased need to protect children arriving at our borders, including unaccompanied or separated children, and those victims of war related crimes, violence and abuse.

“This third joint guidance note aims at supporting authorities, including border police to conduct their activities in full respect of our standards to effectively uphold and protect the rights of migrant and refugee children the very moment they arrive in our member States,” added Kayacik.

Michael O’Flaherty, outgoing director of the FRA, said that authorities and borders had a legal duty to meet the needs of all migrant and refugee children arriving at EU borders.

“This practical guide should raise awareness and provide much-needed support to ensure children are well protected and officials have a better understanding of how they can best safeguard children’s rights,” he added.

This latest paper builds on the previous joint notes: Fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders (March 2020); and European standards on legal remedies, complaints mechanisms and effective investigations at borders (July 2021).

Author: Simon Weedy

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