Protecting the rights of migrant and refugee children is a key priority of the Council of Europe, and an area particularly targeted for action in its Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021) and the Secretary General's proposal for priority actions (4 March 2016).

As stated in the Strategy, “children on the move, or otherwise affected by migration, remain one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe today”. Giving focus to the precarious situation of unaccompanied children, it highlights that “migrant children at large, even when accompanied by parents, often suffer persistent violations of their human rights”. The purpose of the Strategy is to illustrate a series of important gaps and problems which result in children falling through the loopholes of child protection/frameworks and/or children’s rights being violated, all of which need to be addressed.

The Council of Europe Secretary General’s priority actions focus on:

  1. Preventing migrant and asylum-seeking children from falling victims to violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking
  2. Making every effort to end the placement of children in immigration detention facilities
  3. Improving age assessment procedures
  4. Ensuring a gender dimension in dealing with migrant and asylum seeking children
  5. Ensuring access to education

The Committee of Ministers instructed the Ad hoc Committee for the Rights of the Child (CAHENF) (126th Session, May 2016), to propose further priority actions to ensure that special measures and safeguards are in place to protect unaccompanied and other children affected by the migrant and refugee crisis, in particular concerning standards on legal guardianship, age assessment and protective measures against trafficking in human beings.

In addition to the Parliamentary Assembly End Immigration Detention of Children Campaign, the targeted work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, and the Urgent monitoring round currently completed by the Lanzarote Committee on the protection of children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, numerous other sectors of the Council of Europe have used their respective potential to contribute to the protection of the rights of the children affected by the crisis.

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High level meeting

Europe’s challenge to ensure a rights perspective for children in migration

24 April 2017 Stockholm, Sweden

The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, Tomáš Boček, will deliver a keynote speech at a high-level meeting on the rights of the child migrants in Europe. Sweden’s Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality will participate along with European...

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Council of Europe calls on Hungary to reconsider new law that risks exposing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to sexual violence

24 March 2017 Strasbourg

In a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Claude Janizzi, the Chairperson of the Council of Europe Lanzarote Committee expressed his concern that the adopted law – “On the amendment of certain acts related to increasing the strictness of procedures carried out in the areas of border...

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OSCE conference on migrants in an irregular situation

22-23 March 2017 Riga, Latvia

The Council of Europe’s Children’s Rights Division participated in a conference organised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Riga on 22-23 March on the subject of migrants in an irregular situation whose return or removal has been postponed. This conference...

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States should avoid depriving migrant children of their liberty, in line with CPT standards

15 March 2017 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee (CPT) has restated its position in a newly-published fact sheet that every effort should be made to avoid resorting to the deprivation of liberty of an irregular migrant who is a child, and stated that member States should not detain unaccompanied or...

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SRSG identifies main challenges for migrant and refugee childen in Europe

22 March 2017 Strasbourg

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...

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