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Council of Europe-UNHCR seminar on protecting refugee and migrant children in Portugal

Council of Europe Lisbon 27 May 2019
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Council of Europe-UNHCR seminar on protecting refugee and migrant children in Portugal

Key stakeholders from the Council of Europe, UNHCR (the United Nation’s refugee agency) and national experts from Portugal gathered in Lisbon this morning for the start of a seminar to discuss the “Effective Protection of Refugee and Migrant Children in Portugal”. The two-day event, organised jointly by CoE and UNHCR, aims to raise awareness and capacity building of professionals who come into contact with children on the move, in line with international standards.

The seminar brings together some 80 participants from relevant Portuguese authorities, including the Ministry of Internal Administration, Immigration and Borders Service, the High Commission for Migration, the National Commission for the Promotion of Rights and the Protection of Children and Young People, legal professionals, and the Portuguese Ombudsperson, as well as other national and international stakeholders.

“This event is a good example of how we can make a difference by joining efforts within our respective Organisations and between different sectors of national authorities to tackle the challenges linked to child protection, migration management, law enforcement, and social services,” said Lilja Gretarsdottir, Secretary of the Council of Europe Steering Committee Drafting Group on Migration and Human Rights.

“According to UNHCR, in the first three months of 2019, 16,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe. One in four is a minor. The organisation of this seminar is the first initiative of this kind in Portugal and will allow the debate on the protection of children in the context of migration. There are several entities in Portugal with competence in this area, so sharing information on the international legal and institutional framework, and on the practice of entities such as UNHCR and Council of Europe can serve as inspiration for the standardisation of understandings and procedures in Portugal,” said Marina Portugal, Head of the Asylum and Refugees Department of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF).

“This seminar offers an opportunity to support ongoing initiatives by the government to further strengthen protection of children starting from the moment of arrival, through cooperation between asylum, anti-trafficking, and child protection institutions in Portugal,” said Roland Schilling, acting Regional Representative of UNHCR’s Regional Representation for Southern Europe.

Topics to be explored during the seminar include age assessment, best interests within the asylum procedure, provision of child-friendly information, guardianship, relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and combatting trafficking in human beings, including children. In addition, best practice examples of successfully implemented alternatives to immigration detention will be presented, as well as the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019), together with specific examples in member states.