Main challenges for migrant and refugee children in Europe
The fields raise serious concern:
• Identification and age assessment
• Registration and guardianship
• Adequate reception conditions including preventing and responding effectively to disappearances
• Alternatives to detention for families and suitable alternative care arrangements for unaccompanied and separated children
• Accurate information, quality legal aid and access to child-friendly procedures
• Preventing and responding to violence, trafficking and exploitation
• Education and integration measures
• Access to health services
• Relocation and resettlement
• Family reunification
• Transition to adulthood
The [SRSG,]carried out four fact-finding missions to Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey, northern France (Calais and Grande-Synthe) and Italy.
The SRSG’s fact-finding missions have demonstrated some key areas where the Council of Europe must play its role in supporting member states, and indeed all actors concerned.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees [SRSG,]Tomáš Boček publishes a Thematic Report on migrant and refugee children.The report, based on his on-the-ground experience gathered during the fact-finding missions in 2016*, calls for urgent measures to find alternatives to detention of children and guarantee minimum living conditions in camps, such as gender-separate sanitary facilities, better lighting and child-friendly spaces in order to eliminate risks of sexual abuse.
The Special Representative also identified a real need to protect unaccompanied children and prevent disappearances. Other areas of concern include the lack of appropriate age-assessment measures, effective guardianship system for children and access to information and education. In the report, the SRSG calls for specialised linguistic support to refugee and migrant children to enhance their integration.
This report is the first step in a renewed focus in the Council of Europe’s activities on refugees’ and migrants’ access to rights and will be followed by the Organisation’s Action Plan for the protection of migrant and refugee children, especially unaccompanied children. The adoption of the Action Plan is scheduled for May 2017.
The body of Council of Europe conventions sets important standards, in diverse areas, which are the foundation stones for action. The geographical reach of its membership allows activities by the Council of Europe to achieve an impact all along the migration routes into and within Europe. The Council of Europe can draw on the knowledge and experiences of its member states along this spectrum to develop policy and provide support in fulfilling our obligations towards refugee and migrant children. The Council of Europe also supports networks which have a real role to play, including the European Network for Ombudsmen for Children. It participates in ongoing dialogue and co-operates closely with other international and regional organisations including the European Union and United Nations bodies and agencies.
Putting in place, as a next step, an action plan that addresses issues facing all refugee and migrant children will strengthen the Council of Europe’s ongoing work and crucially will allow us to do more and to do better for children and families. A comprehensive framework allows the Council of Europe to bring refugee and migrant children specifically into focus across the many areas of Council of Europe work that have an impact on them. These include child rights, education, sport, youth participation, access to social rights and intercultural programmes. It would allow better links to be forged between them and would contribute to the ongoing work of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities, the European Committee of Social Rights and the important monitoring work of the treaty bodies. An action plan will also enable the Council of Europe to engage more fully with external stakeholders in respect of refugee and migrant children by raising awareness of its activities, supporting dialogue, and facilitating synergies and co-operation.