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Protecting children at Europe’s borders – new guidance for border officials and other authorities

Child alone with backpack.
Lydia Geissler ©, 2023
A new joint publication from the Council of Europe and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) outlines the relevant human rights standards at Europe’s borders that apply to children.

The note on ‘Children in migration: Fundamental rights at European borders’ summarises the main safeguards of European law as they apply to migrant children at the external borders of the EU and of the Council of Europe. It covers the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and EU law.

Council of Europe and EU Member States have the right to control the entry of non-nationals into their territory. However, in exercising border control, States need to protect the fundamental rights of everyone, regardless of their nationality, status, or age in accordance with their obligations under international and European law. Children require extra protection, as they are particularly vulnerable with special needs. 

“There is an increased need to protect children arriving at our borders, including unaccompanied or separated children, and those victims of war related crimes, violence and abuse. This third joint guidance note aims at supporting authorities, including border police to conduct their activities in full respect of our standards to effectively uphold and protect the rights of migrant and refugee children the very moment they arrive in our member States,” says the Council of Europe’s Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, Leyla Kayacik.

“Authorities and border officials have a legal duty to meet the needs of all migrant and refugee children arriving at our borders. This practical guide should raise awareness and provide much-needed support to ensure children are well protected and officials have a better understanding of how they can best safeguard children’s rights,” says outgoing FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty, whose term expired on 15 December 2023.

 The new publication builds on the previous joint notes: Fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders (March 2020); and European standards on legal remedies, complaints mechanisms and effective investigations at borders (July 2021).