Migrant child protection still a grave concern

The treatment of asylum-seeking and migrant children continues to be worrying in many parts of Europe. This is one of the main concerns from the latest summary report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on migration-related fundamental rights in selected EU Member States which points to inadequate living conditions and support leading to ill-heath.

Access the April monthly data collection highlights.

The Agency’s latest summary identifies pressing fundamental rights issues that need addressing in various EU Member States. Some of the main findings include:

  1. Asylum-seeking and migrant children continue to suffer in many countries. Unaccompanied children often receive little support and can be housed with adults they do not know. Their health and wellbeing can also deteriorate, resulting in suicide attempts, as they approach adulthood or face moving to other parts of the country or being returned following failed asylum claims. Methods for assessing age, where, for example the Swedish Migration Agency found 60% of all cases to be insufficiently investigated, pose problems for children in many cases. In addition, not enough guardians, staff lacking the skills or time to deal with migrant children, and too few places in adequate and secure facilities, all compound the difficulties children face.
  2. The pattern of new arrivals is changing with numbers rising in Greece but particularly in Italy, and dropping significantly in Hungary, where a smart fence with speakers warns against irregular crossing in different languages. In Spain, the use of small boats to arrive grew by 62% in the first three months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
  3. Asylum patterns are also changing with applications rising in Italy and falling in Germany and Hungary. In Hungary, the transit zone policy has left some 8,000 people waiting in Serbia to enter and only 5 people per working day are being admitted to each of the two transit zones.
  4. Overcrowding, poor facilities and the growing use of detention remain problematic, particularly in hotspot and reception facilities. Healthcare for people with mental health issues or suffering anxiety and depression, and privacy for women continue to be issues.
  5. Hate speech, particularly online, continues to remain high. In the Netherlands over a fifth of all online hate speech was found to target asylum seekers and migrants.
  6. In some countries the political response to the migration situation continues to become more restrictive. Legislative initiatives in several Member States aim at restricting appeals, increasing detention, and facilitating and accelerating returns. Society in many Member States is also becoming more polarised with demonstrations for and against migration and asylum.

The European Commission asked the Agency to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States particularly affected by large migration movements. The reports cover 14 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. The next focus will be on education.