Working out where children’s rights fits into the wider situation requires mapping the issues, relevant organisations, and any advocacy opportunities. Age assessment emerged from our mapping as an issue that was often approached in a way that does not respect children’s rights, and CRIN has focused its work on this. The Council of Europe starting drafting guidelines on the issue during 2017 and we joined the drafting group to push for an explicit and strong rights-based approach and to challenge a tendency to misuse children’s rights in this setting. We will continue this involvement during 2018.
While there are no quick fixes or solutions to the current refugee crisis, there are a number of actions European States could do to improve the plight of refugees and migrants.
Accommodation and reception
Reception arrangements must meet the rights and needs of children in line with their best interests. They should include swift and child-friendly registration, information, accommodation, nutrition, access to health services, psychosocial and legal assistance. Children should never be detained for migration related reasons.
Qualified and trained guardians for all unaccompanied/separated children
Fully qualified and trained guardians should be immediately provided after the arrival of unaccompanied/separated child, acting as a safeguard for the child’s best interests and well-being. This should be able to exercise legal capacity if necessary.
Respect a child’s right to be heard
Refugee children or children in migration have a right to be heard and to participate in all decisions concerning them in accordance with their age and maturity.
Support the movement of children when in their best interests
The Dublin regulation (or convention) aims to determine the State responsible for an asylum claim and provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to that Member State. Usually, the responsible State will be the State through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU. However, this system of transfers towards the first country of arrival is not a solution to the issue of unsafe movement of children across borders. Children should have unhindered access to relocation as a tool for protection when in their best interest's.
Better funded arrival services
Additional resources should be made available for awareness raising and training of professionals working with children. More resources also need to be made available for State services on first contact, receptions, accommodation centres, law-enforcement, immigration, asylum authorities, health professionals, carers and school personnel.
Stronger cross-border cooperation in child protection on both government and non-governmental levels
Existing networks with expertise and experience in the protection of vulnerable children should be enhanced including the network of hotlines for missing children. Cooperation should seek to develop type protection systems that ensure that children have access to the full range of rights they are entitled to in accordance with European and international law.
Any personal data of children should be used exclusively for the best interests of the child
Any personal data of children including fingerprints of children should be used exclusively for the sake of protection and never used to manage migration or return of children.
Improved international cooperation between States and agencies
A reduction in delays and costs and a streamlining of procedures could contribute to preventing child disappearance and reduce the risks of children being subject to harm. Best interests of the child should guide all decisions concerning him or her and all procedures should be explained clearly in a child-friendly manner.