7 priority actions to protect all refugee and migrant children

ccme-children-cannot-wait78 organisations active in the field of children’s rights have strongly welcomed the focus on protecting children in migration at year’s European Forum on the Rights of the Child and they have identified seven priority ways in which EU leaders can better protect children.

At least 1 in 3 people arriving to Greece by sea in 2016 were children. In the same year, the number of unaccompanied children arriving to Italy doubled. However, actions to protect children have remained insufficient. Responses to migration cannot be effective or protect children unless they systematically take into account their best interests and specific needs.

A broad range of monitoring bodies and civil society organisations have – for several years – been calling for a comprehensive and rights-based approach to all refugee and migrant children.

The initiative taken by the European Commission, and in particular Commissioner Jourova, to put a focus on the rights of all refugee and migrant children is timely and essential. Governments re-committed to protect the rights of all refugee and migrant children at the UN High-level Summit of 19 September 2016.

The growing challenges facing refugee and migrant children across Europe now require renewed political commitment and much more action at European level. Some of the rights violations that refugee and migrant children face daily en route to, and within, the EU include lack of safety, food and access to services, such as health care and shelter; separation from their parents; extortion, violence and exploitation as well as injury and death.

The statement – which can be read in full on the CCME website – goes on to explain:

These children grow up in our societies, becoming future EU citizens. They should be considered as children first, regardless of their migration status. We need to invest in them, and empower them to fulfil their potential as equal participants in their communities.

We acknowledge the work that is being done across Europe by different governments, EU institutions and agencies to address these challenges. The Forum is a key moment to discuss the positive policies and practices to be adapted and disseminated. However, these initiatives are not enough.

The 78 organisations have urged EU leadership to take immediate action, in cooperation with civil society, in the following priority areas:

  1. Adoption of an EU Action Plan on all refugee and migrant children
  2. Reforming the asylum legislation
  3. Prioritising children in all migration and asylum policies
  4. Funding for strengthening child protection systems
  5. Addressing refugee and migrant children in all areas
  6. Protecting children across borders
  7. Ensuring and using quality data and evidence