The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe invites the governments of the member states of the Council of Europe to take a number of measures to strengthen the protection of migrant children separated from their families.
According to an Ukrinform correspondent, the PACE adopted the relevant resolution after a general debate on three reports – on the humanitarian consequences and internal and external displacements in connection with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, on the protection and care of unaccompanied migrant children, and on justice and security.
The resolution notes that PACE is deeply concerned about the rapid growth in the number of migrant and refugee children, unaccompanied or living separately in Europe. The Assembly stresses that Member States have an obligation to protect privacy and family life, especially unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children, who are particularly vulnerable and require a higher level of protection.
PACE states that poverty, armed conflicts and the climate crisis are the main reasons why many children find themselves in Europe alone, often without documents and without means of subsistence. In recent years, most unaccompanied children have come from Afghanistan, Syria and Bangladesh.
At the same time, the resolution notes that the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine has led to dramatic consequences of the massive displacement of migrant and refugee children, many of whom are separated from their families.
“Under these conditions, they are at high risk of exploitation and abuse and easily fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. It is of the utmost importance and imperative that the competent authorities of Council of Europe member states, including parliamentarians, be fully aware of the legal obligations arising from international and European instruments relating to the protection of unaccompanied or separated children in order to ensure their full protection in all areas.” , the resolution says.
The Assembly notes that all Member States should adopt a common approach that treats unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children first and foremost as children. This implies that the interests of the child should be paramount, regardless of his migration status in a particular country.
In this context, Member States should ensure that unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children can benefit from:
- all guarantees for the protection of children, including adequate and immediate identification and registration of their identity, legal, family and social status;
- a serious gender-sensitive assessment of their immediate needs for protection, support and care; special attention should be paid to victims of violence, abuse and human trafficking, as well as children with special needs, including medical and psychological;
- the immediate appointment of a guardian who will protect the interests of the child and provide a link between the child and the competent authorities in the search for his parents and other members of his family;
- a full assessment and determination of the child’s best interests by the child’s guardian, child protection services or competent courts;
- access to education, governments should ensure that unaccompanied migrant minors are integrated into the school environment, provide them with an educational process and facilitate connections with the school and other children of their age.
PACE also notes that Member States are legally responsible for unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children in their territory, in accordance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Thus, they should have strong child protection systems in place, including strong coordination between relevant child protection and migration authorities, as well as other agencies and relevant civil society organizations.
The Assembly considers that the Council of Europe should contribute to the creation of a European platform for the exchange of knowledge, practical know-how and best practices among its member states for the proper care of such children.
The Assembly also invited Council of Europe member states to respond to the needs of migrant and refugee children by providing them with assistance that preserves family unity and allows them to stay with their parents or other caregivers. To this end, Member States should adopt, as an interim measure, a specific list of care decisions that will continue until children can be reunited with family members.
PACE reaffirmed that in cases where the return of a child to its family is not possible, Member States should develop and implement appropriate and quality care solutions that meet the individual needs, in particular of unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children.
In addition, Member States should develop alternative forms of family care, including supervised independent living, collective care in small groups and, as a last resort, appropriate placement in residential institutions, ensuring that the principle of non-custodial liberty is respected.
Finally, Member States should provide services, programs and measures to help unaccompanied or separated migrant or refugee children, or children separated from their families, leave guardianship and ongoing psychological and practical support aimed at strengthening their autonomy; this requires good preparation and planning before leaving care, whether the young person stays in or leaves the country.
With regard to the emergency situation concerning Ukrainian children, the Assembly stresses the ongoing need to strengthen a coordinated approach at the European level between countries of first arrival, countries of transit and countries of residence, so that children are quickly identified and registered and can enjoy all guarantees in terms of protection and receive adequate quality support.
As Ukrinform reported, the PACE summer session is being held in Strasbourg on June 20-24.
Photo: CTK Photo