“The plight of the many seeking refuge in the EU needs resolving urgently. This applies to children in particular, many of whom are without parental care and are at risk of becoming victims of abuse, exploitation or trafficking,” said FRA interim Director Constantinos Manolopoulos. "We must ensure that all children, particularly those without parental care, receive international protection and are safe from those who violate their rights and deprive them of their childhood. Ultimately, it should be remembered that children, no matter their status, are children after all and should be treated as such.”
Conflicts in areas neighbouring the EU and beyond are driving significant numbers of people from their homes in search of safety and security. In Syria alone, the conflict has left an estimated 16 million people – almost half of them children – in need of life-saving assistance and protection, including basic healthcare, safe water, sanitation and education. Over 4 million Syrians – half of them children – have fled the country since the conflict started nearly 5 years ago. Many of them are making their way to the EU.
The perilous journeys by land and by sea lead many to lose their lives, become separated from their loved ones or fall prey to smugglers and traffickers. Efforts should be made to ensure children are protected during this ever-growing humanitarian crisis.
On 11 September Unicef urged European leaders to quickly turn new commitments for refugees and migrants into action for children. In this regard, EU Member States, especially frontline states receiving refugees, should mobilise their national child protection systems and provide them with additional emergency resources to ensure the well-being of all refugee children.
As FRA has pointed out over the years, there is a need to ensure that Member States uphold their duty to care for and protect children, especially now as so many are arriving at the EU’s borders. This includes:
- establishing procedures, providing resources and training all staff who deal with separated children including border guards, the police and other professionals working in the field;
- guaranteeing adequate care and minimum reception standards at all times to all children arriving at EU borders such as placing unaccompanied children together with families;
- putting in place measures to keep families together and preventing separation of children from their parents and carers;
- identifying and registering children arriving unaccompanied at border crossing points;
- strengthening and harmonising child protection systems across the EU for all children that take their needs and views into consideration.
Relevant work from FRA in this area includes:
- FRA’s project on guardianship provisions for child victims of trafficking and related handbook on guardianship for children deprived of parental care;
- A comparative report on child trafficking;
- FRA’s project on mapping child protection systems in the EU;
- A report on separated, asylum-seeking children in EU Member States.