Children and migration
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:
- Preventing migrant and asylum-seeking children from falling victims to violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking
- Making every effort to end the placement of children in immigration detention facilities
- Improving age assessment procedures
- Ensuring a gender dimension in dealing with migrant and asylum seeking children
- 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.
Drafting Group of Experts on Children’s Rights and Safeguards in the context of migration (CAHENF-Safeguards)
In September 2016, the CAHENF decided to establish the Drafting Group of Experts on Children’s Rights and Safeguards in the context of migration (CAHENF-Safeguards). CAHENF-Safeguards will develop standards on guardianship and on age assessment for adoption by CAHENF in 2018.
End Immigration Detention of Children Campaign
With large numbers of children arriving in Europe, fleeing instability, war, conflict and persecution, there is an imperative to ensure that their best interests are considered in the migration context in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect them from harm at all stages of immigration procedures.
When children are deprived of their liberty in a migration context, they are in a position of particular vulnerability, being at a higher risk of violence, abuse and acts of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Equally, they are at increased risk of suffering depression, anxiety, and from post-traumatic stress disorder. Even a short period of detention can compromise the psychological and physical well-being of the child.
The Children’s Rights Division is therefore carrying out work in co-operation with the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly as part of the End Immigration Detention of Children Campaign. This phase of the project will run from 01 October 2016 to 31 January 2018, and is supported through a voluntary contribution from the Government of Switzerland.
As part of this campaign, the Children’s Rights Division will work with the PACE to:
- Elaborate a training guide on monitoring places where children are deprived of their liberty as a result of immigration procedures.
- Elaborate a training programme for members of national parliaments and ombudspersons’ staff on monitoring places where children are deprived of their liberty as a result of immigration procedures.
- Identify examples of age assessment policies, procedures and practices respectful of children's rights to support the work of the Ad hoc Committee for the Rights of the Child of the Council of Europe (CAHENF) on standards regarding age assessment.
This work will further enhance co-operation between parliaments, ombudspersons, competent government bodies and civil service in addressing problems relating to immigration detention of children.
Special Representative on Migration and Refugees
The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees is Ambassador Tomáš Boček. His Action Plan for 2017-2019 will be submitted to the Committee of Ministers in May 2017. Mr Boček is responsible for gathering information on the basic rights of migrants and refugees in Europe, including through fact-finding missions, and making proposals for action.
High level meeting
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...
Council of Europe calls on Hungary to reconsider new law that risks exposing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to sexual violence
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...
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...
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...
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...