Implementation of the Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019)
Ensuring access to rights and child-friendly procedures
Child-friendly migration-related information
A roundtable was organised by the Children’s Rights Division on 29-30 November 2017 on ways to communicate with children in a child-friendly manner. Based on works on this roundtable the “Handbook for frontline professionals on how to convey child-friendly information to children in migration” was launched on 18 December 2018. It is currently available in English, French and Spanish. In addition, a brochure was developed for children undergoing age assessment (available in Portuguese, French and English).
Child-friendly approaches in the context of migration
HELP course on the rights of refugee and migrant children
- in the United Kingdom (13 November 2018) with UNHCR for solicitors, barristers and legal professionals in the United Kingdom,
- in Spain (23 November 2018) together with the Spanish Bar Association (Consejo General de la Abogacía Española), the Spanish Judicial Council (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) and the Spanish Judiciary School for a mixed group judges, prosecutors and lawyers,
- in Greece (10 December 2018) with the Athens Bar Association and UNHCR for Greek lawyers,
- in France (3 June 2019) jointly with the Conseil National des Barreaux (CNB), the Délégation des Barreaux de France (DBF) and UNHCR for French lawyers,
- in Italy (30-31 October 2019) with the Italian School of Magistrates and the Italian National Bar Council for Italian judges and lawyers, and
- in Turkey (2 December 2019) with the Istanbul Bar Association for lawyers.
The abovementioned national adaptations of the course and language versions in French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Turkish as well as the new translations into Albanian, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Croatian, German and Hungarian will be added to the online platform.
Preventing statelessness for child migrants
The European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) decided on 14-16 November 2018, at its 93rd plenary meeting, to undertake preliminary review of protocols and procedures used by member states to determine and resolve cases of statelessness, in particular of migrant children. On 11-12 June 2019, an Ad-hoc Meeting on Statelessness Determination Procedures examined recent gaps or new challenges and practical difficulties encountered by both national authorities and stateless persons. A detailed analysis reflected the outcome of the ad hoc meeting. It was presented and examined by the CDCJ at its 94th plenary meeting (13-15 November 2019), with a decision to organise in 2020-2021 an international conference on statelessness and to hold a series of targeted technical meetings on statelessness.
Providing effective protection
New guidelines on effective guardianship
The CAHENF, with the support of its drafting group (CAHENF-Safeguards) developed these guidelines. On 11 December 2019 the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)11 on effective guardianship for unaccompanied and separated children in the context of migration.
Follow-up action for the implementation of the guidelines will be discussed by the CDENF in 2020.
New guidelines on age-assessment
A draft text of the recommendation on Human Rights Principles and Implementing Guidelines on age assessment for children in migration was prepared and its pending consultations. More on the drafting process.
The drafting process relied on a 2017 survey on age assessment and on consultations with children who have experienced age assessment in the context of migration and asylum procedures in four countries. The report “We are children, hear us out! Children in migration speak out about age assessment” reflecting these consultations was published on 27 May 2019.
Follow-up action for the implementation of the guidelines will be discussed by the CDENF in 2020.
Reception and accommodation of refugee and migrant children
At its 90th meeting on 27-30 November 2018, the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) endorsed the proposal to explore in the 2020-2021 biennium reception conditions for refugee and migrant children. The Drafting Group on Human Rights and Migration (CDDH-MIG) held several exchanges of views on the topic at their 5th meeting on 17-19 October 2018 and on their 6th meeting on 26-28 March 2019, including a feasibility study of various options for future work. Following a consultation among its members, the CDDH decided at its 91st meeting on 18-21 June 2019 to focus, in particular, on family-based care arrangements for unaccompanied and separated children. At its 92nd meeting on 26-29 November 2019, the CDDH concluded that the outcomes should be user-friendly, concise and accessible, with the completion of the new work on family-based care foreseen by the end of 2020.
Standards and good practices to restore family links and reunify families
The handbook “Family reunification for refugee and migrant children - standards and promising practice” was was published in July 2020.
Alternatives to immigration detention
The conference "Immigration detention of chidren: Coming to a close?" took place in Prague, on 25-26 September 2017.
Analysis of the legal and practical aspects of effective alternatives to detention in the context of migration, published on 28 January 2018 by the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH). The document is also available in French and German.
On 16 October 2019, the Committee of Ministers endorsed the Practical Guidance on Alternatives to Immigration Detention: Fostering Effective Results, adopted by CDDH at its 91st meeting. (French version)
On 4 April 2019 the International conference on Effective Alternatives to the Detention of Migrants, organised jointly by the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the European Migration Network, discussed a variety of concrete examples and practices of alternatives to the detention of migrants from different corners of Europe with some 200 participants.
A newly developed HELP course on alternatives to immigration detention will be available on the HELP platform in early 2020.
Additional actions to promote alternatives to immigration detention: preparation of know-how and user-friendly materials on effective alternatives to detention, capacity building among professionals, and enhancing the overall awareness of good practices and lessons learnt in effectively implementing alternatives.
- Conference Report - Immigration Detention of Children: Coming to a Close?
- Analysis of the legal and practical aspects of effective alternatives to detention in the context of migration
- Alternatives to Immigration Detention: Fostering Effective Results - Practical Guidance
- International conference on Effective Alternatives to the Detention of Migrants
CPT factsheet on immigration detention
Factsheet on immigration detention published on 15 March 2017. In addition to English and French the factsheet is now available in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Greek, Italian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.
Guide for Parliamentarians visiting places where children are deprived of their liberty as a result of immigration procedures
The guide was developed by the Children’s Rights Division in co-operation with Defence for Children International Belgium for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), it was launched on 11 October 2017.
Training courses, organised by the Children’s Rights Division and PACE, took place in Strasbourg in April and November 2017. The course included participants from 14 member states and 2 states with observer status. Another training session was held on 28-29 March 2019 in Paris for representatives from 11 member states.
Preventing and suppressing smuggling of migrants, including children
“The European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) has, since 2015, included the question of criminal law aspects related to the smuggling of migrants, including children, in its activities.
At its plenary session in December 2017 the CDPC decided to set up two expert working groups to analyse and propose follow-up action: the Working Group on Prevention of smuggling of migrants and the Working Group on fostering international co-operation and investigative strategies in fighting the smuggling of migrants.
The WG on international co-operation discussed in detail a draft Action Plan meant to translate its observations into concrete Council of Europe action. In August 2020, the CDPC finalised and approved the Council of Europe Action Plan on Fostering International Co-operation and Investigative Strategies in Fighting the Smuggling of Migrants.
Its fundamental goal is to help member States foster and improve international co-operation and investigative strategies in fighting the criminal phenomena connected to the smuggling of migrants. This will be crucial to overcome the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial challenges in migrant smuggling-related cases, facilitate the information knowledge and exchange amongst relevant stakeholders and boost co-operation amongst source, transit and destination countries. The promotion, implementation and follow-up of the Action Plan is overseen by the CDPC.”
Addressing trafficking among migrant children and refugees
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) highlighted important gaps in the prevention of child trafficking and the identification and protection of child victims of trafficking, mainly in its Thematic chapter on trafficking in children of the 6th General report, as well as in the 7th and 8th General Reports, covering the year 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
A compendium of good practices in the fight against child trafficking has been developed based on GRETA’s evaluation reports. The compendium is intended to provide support to member states in addressing gaps outlined by GRETA when it comes to the identification and assistance of victims of trafficking among migrant and refugee children and the prevention of (re)trafficking.
Seminar on combatting sexual exploitation of refugee and migrant children
On 13 June 2017, in Belgrade, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities organised the second seminar for local government associations focusing on the Congress Pact to stop the sexual exploitation of children.
To date, the Pact to stop sexual exploitation of children has 80 signatories from 24 countries.
Measures and follow-up action for the implementation of recommendations of Lanzarote Committee
On 3 March 2017 the Lanzarote Committee issued a Special Report “Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”, which contained “urge”, “consider” and “invite” recommendations. At its 24th meeting (4-6 June 2019), the Lanzarote Committee decided to make public its evaluation report on the implementation of its five “urge” recommendations and to launch the collection of information concerning the implementation of the “consider” implementations. Based on the evaluation report will be identified promising practices for future exchanges of information or co-operation.
On 13-14 December 2018 in Strasbourg, Council of Europe Children´s Rights Division, in association with the SRSG on migration and refugees, organised an international roundtable on “Delivering real change: effectively protecting refugee and migrant children’s rights” to discuss among others follow-up to the recommendations of the Lanzarote Committee’s Special report and to SRSG’s fact-finding missions.
- Special Report - Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse
- Roundtable - Delivering real change: effectively protecting refugee and migrant children’s rights
- Evaluation report on the implementation of its five “urge” recommendations of the Special Report
Enhancing refugee and migrant children's integration
Following a call for proposals, 14 associations were selected to focus on the translation and/or adaptation of the toolkit into the local/national context, training of volunteers/teachers of language courses for refugees and migrants, of social services’ interpreters, and further dissemination, etc. Among these initiatives, webinar training is available for further free of charge use by the NGOs involved with the linguistic integration of migrants and refugees. In December 2018 a consultation meeting discussed success stories and lessons learnt and provided insights and recommendations regarding the adaptability of the Toolkit.
A survey on Language Policies and Language Requirements for Migrants in the member states was being undertaken by the Education Department in close cooperation with the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE). Its primary aim was to map the language requirements and knowledge of society (KoS) requirements for migrants in Council of Europe member states. A new feature in this survey is the particular attention dedicated to vulnerable groups, such as illiterate/low-literate migrants, women, unaccompanied children, asylum seekers and refugees.
The results of the survey have been made public and discussed at the 4th intergovernmental conference “Achieving Equal Opportunities for All Migrants Through Learning and Assessment: Language and knowledge of society requirements for migrants in Council of Europe member states" on 16 October 2019.
A reference guide will be developed to provide the content of the syllabus from non-literacy to level A1. It is targeted to the migrants and refugees with no or hardly any previous schooling, or who are low-educated semi-literate but who can read and write in a non-alphabetic script and learn the language(s) of the host countries. It will be piloted in 2020.
Collection of Council of Europe texts: Children and Adolescents from a migrant background: Integration and Education; Linguistic and educational integration of children and adolescents from migrant backgrounds; Resources.
The drafting of policy recommendations on the linguistic integration of refugees and migrants is foreseen for the next biennium.
European qualifications passport for refugees
On 14 November 2017 was adopted a Recommendation on the Recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced person, and persons in a refugee-like situation and its explanatory memorandum. The EQPR is cited in the explanatory memorandum as a good practice implementing the recommendation and Article 7 of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.
After a successful pilot phase in 2017, a second phase was launched in 2018 with additional national partners and new objectives to cover secondary education credentials, building national capacities in the use the EQPR methodology and setting up an online platform to facilitate access to the assessment of credentials and to allow EQPR holders to share their confirmed credentials with third parties. Role of EQPR in the development of a global qualifications passport.
Promoting diversity inclusiveness in mainstream media
The Media and Internet Division published in 28 February 2018 an explorative study on the needs of refugees and migrants in the domain of media communication “Spaces of Inclusion – needs for refugees and migrants in the domain of media communication and responses by community media” and in April 2018 a report concerning media on the massive arrival of refugees “Media coverage of the ‘refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective.”
Upcoming 2019 report “Across generations - community media as spaces for local dialogue and cohesion”.
Presentation and discussion of the mentioned publications in PACE and in different forums, such as: the Civil Media 2017 Conference in Salzburg, 15-17 June 2017; the Conference on Media and Migration 2017, Hamburg, 24-25 November 2017; the Vienna Conference “Media Democracy under Pressure” on 22 May 2018; and the NECS Conference in Amsterdam “Media Tactics and Engagement” on 27-29 June 2018; Panel “Refugees in the Media: Best Practices of Rights Based Approach to Journalism”, Istanbul, 1 June 2019; Conference “Global Migration Trends 2020: Security, Healthcare and Integration”, Moscow, June 4-5, 2019.
A flash session “Framing the public debate on migration and refugees” was organised at the Conference “Addressing Hate Speech in the media: the role of regulatory authorities and the judiciary” with participation of SRSG on migration and refugees Tomáš Boček in Zagreb, 6-7 November 2018.
Support for three Media against Hate workshops. The workshop in Poland, 7–9 June 2017, focused on presentation of various community media projects promoting dialogue and cohesion. The workshop in Germany, 23–25 November 2017, focused on the promotion of counter-narratives with respect to young and women refugees. The workshop in Spain, Barcelona, 28 June 2018, focused on the treatment of the Mediterranean migrant and refugee crisis on the audiovisual media.
Promoting integration through and in sport
In July 2017, the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) launched a migrant integration via sport platform. There are currently 56 projects, run in 21 countries in around 35 sport disciplines and therapeutic techniques, on the platform.
Depending on the availability of funding, EPAS envisages activities aimed at supporting member states in the implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)10 of the Committee of Ministers on the protection of child and young athletes from dangers associated with migration.
Academy for Democratic Leadership for persons with a refugee background
An addition to the initial actions included in the Action Plan, the project is part of the comprehensive programme “Council of Europe Network of Schools of Political Studies” and responds to the current need for better strategies to promote and support the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. It relies on a series of four pilot seminars organised in different locations aimed to obtain a diversified pool of resources for feedback, ideas and proposals for the set-up of the Academy (October 2018 in Berlin, Germany; June 2019 in Strasbourg, France; October 2019 in Rovereto, Italy; and December 2019 in Athens, Greece). The seminars addressed the themes of democratic participation of refugees in European societies, the efficient protection of unaccompanied children, the refugee’s education for democratic citizenship, and democratic governance of migration and forced displacement.
Life projects for unaccompanied migrant children
An online questionnaire, approved by the CAHENF, was circulated to national delegations in 2018 in order to collect examples of practices on how the Recommendation is implemented at national level. At its 6th meeting in May 2019, the CAHENF took note of the collected information and discussed proposals to complement the information received. In November 2019, at its 7th meeting, the CAHENF examined the report and decided that further policy options and follow-up proposals, including the development of training tools, should be discussed early 2020 by the newly established CDENF.
Social inclusion for young refugees
Based on the preparatory work carried by the Joint Council on Youth (CMJ), on 24 April 2019 the Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)4 on supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood. The recommendation will be implemented in the framework of the Council of Europe “Youth for Democracy” programme.
In parallel, at the end of 2018, the Youth Department launched the YOUTH.TOGETHER project on pursuing the social inclusion of young refugees. The centre‐piece of the project is a long‐term training course for youth workers and young refugees active in reception and hosting centres or other social and educational facilities for or involving, young refugees. The one-year training course allowed participants to learn how to develop a project with young people/refugees, to pilot the projects in their local context and then to share lessons learned with their peers in a final evaluation seminar