In 2015, Europe faced a “refugee crisis” with over a million refugees and migrants reaching the continent. This surge was caused primarily by the wars in Syria and Iraq, in addition to the conflict and instability in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, and others. According to the official information issued by Eurostat in 2015, one fourth of asylum seekers registered in the EU were unaccompanied minors, and around 40% of all refugees were children and young people.
The Council of Europe youth sector aims at enabling young people across Europe to actively uphold, defend, promote and benefit from the Council of Europe’s core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It seeks to provide young people with equal opportunities and experience which enable them to develop knowledge, skills and competencies and to play a full part in all aspects of society. Specific attention is paid to vulnerable groups of young people such as refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
The Joint Council on Youth adopted a statement on the refugee crisis in October 2015. The statement called for special attention to be paid towards vulnerable groups including young refugees, asylum seekers and migrants through capacity building opportunities for more inclusive and peaceful societies. It underlines the importance of continuous, coherent, and synergistic efforts among relevant stakeholders to uphold and protect the basic human rights of these vulnerable groups.
The Joint Council on Youth also prepared policy guidelines in 2017 to protect and support refugees in transition to adulthood, through youth work and youth policy. These became an integral part of the Council of Europe’s Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe.
In 2019, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)4 Supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood. The recommendation reflects the experiences of the youth sector in working with young refugees for several years.
The activities of the youth sector of the Council of Europe with refugees and asylum seekers take into account the specific needs of young refugees. They include seminars, consultative meetings, training courses and study sessions organised in cooperation with youth organisations, such as the Voice of Young Refugees in Europe and the Young Republic.