On 12 September 2017, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, published a position paper entitled Fighting school segregation in Europe through inclusive education, in which he expressed his concern that many European countries still deny thousands of children, including refugee or migrant children, equal access to education by keeping them in segregated schools. The Commissioner noted that this is a violation of children’s human rights with far-reaching negative consequences for our societies. The paper provides an overview of school segregation in Council of Europe member states, as well as its main causes. It also reviews the risks that separate education entails and outlines the key principles that should underpin any policy to eradicate segregation and promote inclusive education. Finally, the report sets out twelve recommendations to develop more inclusive education policies, in particular through improved anti-discrimination legislation, school desegregation strategies and better regulation of school admissions.
Following his visit to Luxembourg from 18 to 22 September 2017, the Commissioner noted in a statement, considerable efforts made by Luxembourg in receiving asylum-seekers and relocating and resettling refugees from other parts of Europe and beyond. Nevertheless, he stressed that more could be done to address delays in examining asylum claims and in ensuring access to housing, employment and inclusive education. With regard to access to asylum, the Commissioner noted that asylum seekers should be provided more systematically with information on the progress made in the examination of their claims. He also called for additional efforts in the identification of vulnerable persons among all new arrivals, in particular those who have experienced torture, sexual abuse or human trafficking. He furthermore addressed the situation of unaccompanied migrant children and of foreign children in the education system, stressing that governments should remain vigilant in ensuring that foreign children are not isolated, and that their meaningful interaction with local pupils should be promoted more systematically. The Commissioner invited the authorities to consider joining the Council of Europe’s pilot project on the “European Qualifications Passport for Refugees”, which aims at facilitating refugee integration and progression towards employment.On 25 and 26 September 2017, the Czech chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers organised a conference “The immigration detention of children: coming to a close?”, at which the Commissioner delivered the keynote speech. In the speech, he urged all those involved to move forward with the abolition of the immigration detention of children. He noted two countervailing trends. On the one hand, an international legal framework increasingly prohibiting the detention of children on account of their immigration status, but at the same time, the seeming expansion of child detention in practice. The Commissioner pointed to the need to expand alternatives to detention and that simply building ‘child-friendly’ detention centres was not the answer. He called on member states to urgently address cases of ill-treatment, and to set out roadmaps to the full abolition of the immigration detention of children. He also noted the need for more active collaboration with other actors, including civil society, and to improve the collection of data on detention and alternatives. Finally, he reminded participants that successfully combating immigration detention can only take place if broader migration policies provide for sufficient safe and legal routes to Europe, to prevent that migrant children become irregular in the first place, thus at risk of detention.