Return/transfer of children at risk who are EU nationals


FRA is looking into national practices across the EU concerning decisions to return or transfer unaccompanied children who are EU nationals to the country of their nationality. The research focuses on whether, and how, child protection authorities are involved, prior to the decision whether to return or transfer children. This will safeguard the best interests of the child and help prevent re-victimisation and/or the further exploitation of children.


The EU’s Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012–2016 calls on FRA to develop a tool to assist Member States address fundamental rights issues related to anti-trafficking policies and measures.

According to data on human trafficking in the EU, 65% of registered victims were EU citizens and that at least 19% of these were children. These children are often exploited in forced criminal activities and forced begging.

Under the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, Member States are obliged not to punish victims of trafficking for crimes they have committed as a result of being trafficked. They also have a duty to protect child victims. As part of this, they need to assess the risks and the best interests of the child, before considering returning or transferring child victims of trafficking to their country of origin. This calls for effective transnational cooperation between national child protection authorities in the EU.

However, cooperation and the actual treatment of unaccompanied children varies between Member States, despite instruments for transnational cooperation on child protection cases.


FRA carried out desk research in 28 EU Member States through its research network, FRANET. It collected data on the national frameworks and practices regarding the return/transfer of unaccompanied children who are EU nationals to their country of nationality.

FRA will discuss the research findings with national experts and key stakeholders in a meeting on 26-27 November 2015.

FRA will take on board these comments to develop practical guidance to enhance transnational cooperation when deciding and arranging the return/transfer of EU nationals to safeguard the best interests of the child. This will be developed in close cooperation with European Commission and in consultation with representatives of relevant European and international organisations, as well selected practitioners and representatives of national authorities.