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FRA is continuing its work on guardianship for unaccompanied children with two planned activities.
The first one will provide an overview of the legal and organisational developments related to guardianship systems for children deprived of parental care who are third-country nationals, updating FRA’s report on Guardianship Systems for Children Deprived of Parental Care in the European Union (2015). Through desk research and interviews with key experts, FRA will collect and analyse information about guardianship and legal representation systems in all 27 EU Member States, plus North Macedonia and Serbia.
The second activity will focus on the development of a training manual on guardianship for unaccompanied children. The training manual will offer a uniform curriculum for guardians which will include basic concepts on child protection and fundamental rights. It will also include information on how guardians can support unaccompanied children during legal proceedings, such as asylum and relocation procedures. The manual will reflect the different national contexts.
Children who are deprived of parental care and who are third-country nationals are in need of special protection, and are entitled to be assigned a person who assists them throughout all proceedings. EU law recognises the importance of guardianship and legal representation to safeguard the child’s best interests and well-being. Guardianship is one of the aspects that the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (COM/2020/609 final) is planning to strengthen. FRA recognises that effective guardianship systems are key to preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation. In 2014, the European Commission and FRA published a Handbook on Guardianship for children deprived of parental care, as required by the European Action Plan to combat trafficking, providing guidance on the set-up of guardianship systems and on the work of guardians.
Since FRA published its first report on guardianship, guardianship systems have undergone reforms in several EU Member States, with legal and/or policy implications. FRA will update the existing publication, with the aim of informing relevant actors working in the field of migration, asylum and protection of children of the current state of play of guardianship systems in the EU.
Some EU Member States have already developed training for guardians and have implemented training courses. However, others are still in the early stages. At present, the EU lacks a basic and common curriculum for the training of guardians. The European Guardianship Network has also identified training as a key challenge and priority for the years to come.
For the guardianship research, the Agency’s multidisciplinary research network, FRANET, will collect the data by means of desk research and interviews with key experts. The findings will update the information FRA has previously collected and published in the 2015 report. Although guardians can have different roles depending on the national context, this report will focus on three specific ones: 1) ensuring the child’s well-being; 2) safeguarding his/her best interests and 3) legal representation in various legal procedures (procedure for residence permits, asylum procedures, etc).
In relation to the training manual, FRA has already experience in the development of such manuals, such as the Training Manual for Police Trainers, a publication which is regularly used by police academies in many Member States. More recently, the Agency has also developed a number of online materials through the new FRA e-learning tool.
The manual will contain information, instructions and best practices on fundamental rights of children and the role of guardians, building upon previous guidance set out in the Handbook on guardianship for children deprived of parental care, EU and international standards, as well as taking into account other resources already available. FRA and a contractor will develop the content of the manual in close consultation with the European Guardianship Network. The manual will be developed as a written publication which will be complemented by an online e-learning course.