In recent years that has been a large increase in numbers of children fleeing their countries of origin and arriving on European territory. More than a third of all asylum seekers in the European Union are children. There has been a six-fold increase in the total number of child asylum applicants in the last six years. This surge in the numbers had put national systems and administration under pressure and exposed gaps and shortcomings in the protection of all categories of children in migration.

In an attempt to adequately tackle this problem, European Commission adopted Communication on the Protection of Children in Migration on 12 April 2017. This Communication represents the first comprehensive framework for protection of children in migration. Based on the experiences in all relevant fields of EU policy, the Commission offered set of principles and recommendations aimed at the protection of children, both accompanied and unaccompanied, from arrival at EU borders to the integration process. Communication outlines priority measures that are to be taken in all phases – from identification and reception, asylum procedure and family reunification, to providing the access to healthcare and education.

In was envisaged that a person responsible for child protection should be present at an early stage of the registration phase and in all reception facilities hosting children and child protection officers should be appointed in each hotspot. The needs of each child must be assessed as early as possible upon arrival and all children need to have access to legal assistance, healthcare, psychological support and education without delay and regardless of their status. For unaccompanied children, the possibility of foster/based care should be considered. Everything must be done to provide alternatives to administrative detention for children, which should be used exclusively in exceptional circumstances and only as a last resort for the shortest time possible. Secretary General of Eurochild Jana Hainsworth welcomed the Communication, at the same time expressing a concern and disappointment that the Commission felt short on banning child detention. „Detention is not compliant with children’s rights and should never be used, not even as a last resort,“ she added.

The Communication oversees the establishment of European guardianship network to exchange good practices. To support the implementation of reliable age-assessment procedures by all Member States, EASO will update its guidance shortly. The Commission will continue to promote the integration of children through funding and the exchange of good practices. Member States are called upon to step up resettlement of  children in need of protection and ensure that family tracing and reintegration measures are put in place for those children who are to be returned.

A determined, concerted and coordinated follow-up to the key actions set out in this Communication is required at EU, national, regional and local level, also in cooperation with civil society and international organizations. This document is also important for Serbia as it deals with the protection of the rights of children on throughout the migrant route in transit countries, with a special focus on unaccompanied children whose number in our country is increasing from one month to another. The Commission will closely monitor this process and report regularly to the Council and European Parliament.

 

Photo: Arab Weekly