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The rights of children are enshrined in various legal instruments and in particular in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Separated, asylum-seeking children have fled from their country of origin displaced by war or for fear of persecution, or have escaped from abusive environments or extreme poverty. They may also have been trafficked for sexual or labour exploitation. They may have started their journey alone or may have become separated from their family during the journey. Their precarious situation makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses, rendering their protection critical, given the high risks to which they are exposed. The challenge for the EU and its Member States is how to deal with this issue fully respecting fundamental rights and acting in the best interests of the children.
FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: "Every year thousands of separated, asylum-seeking children come to the EU. The effective protection of these children at EU level should not be delayed. It is essential to enhance cooperation between Member States, encourage exchange of information and good practices, and reinforce existing protection instruments as soon as possible. In this context, an EU Action Plan on unaccompanied minors, providing effective measures for the protection of separated, asylum-seeking children could be an important instrument."
The FRA report is based on face-to-face interviews with 336 children, as well as 302 adults responsible for their care in 12 EU Member States. It includes considerations as to how the needs of these children can be addressed to facilitate the implementation and fulfilment of their rights, against the background of the EU Commission's announcement that it will be issuing shortly an Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014). The full report, including many direct quotes from the children and their care takers, is expected to be published in June.