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’s Action Plan on protecting refugee and migrant children (2017-2019) was adopted by the 47 member States of the Organisation at the 127th Session of the Committee of Ministers in Nicosia, Cyprus, on the 19 May 2017.

Co-ordinated by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, Ambassador Tomáš Boček, the Action Plan addresses the primary concerns identified in the Thematic Report on migrant and refugee children.

The Action Plan focuses on three key pillars to ensure the better protection of children:

  • Ensuring access to rights and child-friendly procedures.
  • Providing effective protection.
  • Enhancing the integration of children into host societies.

The Children’s Rights Division will carry out and support a number of the activities foreseen in the Action Plan, such as the development of new guidelines on age assessment and guardianship, a handbook on promoting child-friendly information, and training on child-friendly procedures.

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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New Guide for Parliamentarians: Visiting places where children are deprived of their liberty as a result of immigration procedures

11 October 2017 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe has launched a guide to equip parliamentarians to visit children held in immigration detention. Parliamentarians, as policy makers, have the power to bring immigration detention of children to an end. It is vital for them to be informed about the effects of immigration...

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International conference “Immigration Detention of Children: Coming To A Close?”

25 & 26 September 2017 Prague

The conference, which took place in Prague on 25-26 September and hosted by Czech Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, served as a unique opportunity to exchange know-how in a number of key areas including existing international human rights standards, views and approaches of regional and...

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Age assessment of young migrants: child’s best interests must be safeguarded, invasive methods avoided

20 September 2017 Strasbourg

A new report “Age assessment: Council of Europe member states’ policies, procedures and practices respectful of children’s rights in the context of migration” has been issued today. This report, prepared by an independent expert, is based on a survey conducted in 37 Council of Europe member...

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Council of Europe Action Plan on protecting refugee and migrant children adopted

19 May 2017 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe’s Action Plan on protecting refugee and migrant children (2017-2019) was adopted by the 47 member States of the Organisation at the 127th Session of the Committee of Ministers in Nicosia, Cyprus, on the 19 May 2017. “Today, the Council of Europe has agreed on concrete action...

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Italy called to improve the situation of migrant children

8 March 2017 Strasbourg

“Italy should improve its asylum reception-capacity and integration policies, prevent human trafficking and combat corruption in the migration-related services sector” are the main recommendations in a report published today by the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and...

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