Thematic debate on migrant and asylum-seeking children
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On behalf of the Council of Europe, let me be unequivocal: anyone entering Europe, regardless of their origin, whether migrant or refugee, whether considered “legal” or “illegal”, should enjoy the same basic rights, as guaranteed by international law. Yet, despite this, we still see the needs and rights of many of these individuals not being met. Many here have already spoken about the need for action. I welcome that. And I would like to further emphasise the need to act together. There can be no real progress, no lasting resolution to this situation, without cooperation: only a worsening state of affairs. Any government which still believes that it can close its doors and wait for the migrant and refugee crisis to go away is severely mistaken.
The Council of Europe is therefore working with our member States to better coordinate approaches, and to ensure that all migrants and refugees arriving in our territories can enjoy their full rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Top of our concerns must be the children.
We are expediting a new Europe-wide Action Plan to boost their protection and I urge this summit to agree meaningful action on the same front, beginning with effective relocation. We want to see an end to the detention of these children, who should instead have access to suitable accommodation, as well as protection for those who are alone, including from trafficking and abuse. They have the right to be reunited with their families, where they have become separated, and every child should be able to go to school, regardless of his or her migration or registration status. Such safeguards and freedoms are the least that these boys and girls deserve. They have already shown extraordinary courage to get to us.
Let us here match their bravery with our commitment so that – after all they have endured – they can call our nations home.