Migration in Europe – within, to and away from – as anywhere in the world is not a new phenomenon. Human rights challenges in the field of migration were in the focus of the Council of Europe already in 2011 when Turkey witnessed the arrival of the first persons fleeing civil war in Syria. In 2015, the influx peaked in the rest of Europe. This is why in 2016, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, appointed a Special Representative on migration and refugees (SRSG).
During the first three years of the SRSG’s mandate, Council of Europe’s work on migration has become more visible, with regular updates on the situation in the member states through eight fact-finding missions in eleven member states, through thematic debates in the Committee of Ministers, in exchanges of views with Council of Europe monitoring bodies and engaging in intergovernmental co-operation.
The Secretary General identified the protection of refugee and migrant children as a special area of concern for the mandate. In this context, a Thematic Report on migrant and refugee children was published in 2017 and the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019) was adopted by all the 47 member states the same year. The office of the Special Representative is currently co-ordinating the effective implementation of the Action Plan, which includes the Organisation’s priority actions in the field. Among other areas of focus for the mandate are the integration of refugees and migrants, alternatives to immigration detention, and international co-operation.