House of lords - 2nd Report of Session 2016 - 17 - Children in crisis : unaccompanied migrant children in the EU

Source :


Chapter 1 : Introduction

The Committee’s inquiry

Chapter 2 : Setting the scene

  • The scale of the problem
  • The impact of the refugee crisis on unaccompanied migrant children

« In the face of the refugee crisis, EU measures and policies concerning unaccompanied migrant children have proved to be inadequate. Dr Ciara Smyth, Lecturer Above the Bar at the National University of Ireland, Galway, said that the crisis should have created an impetus for the Commission to implement a new action plan for unaccompanied minors13, but no action plan has been forthcoming. Daphne Bouteillet-Paquet, Senior Legal Officer at ECRE, agreed that children’s issues had not been given the prominence that they deserved in EU’s response to the refugee crisis, given that “54% of people arriving in Europe at the moment are women and children,” and that the numbers of unaccompanied migrant children were rising. She concluded : “One could wish that the College [of Commissioners] would not see it as an echo of a problem but as one of the core issues in the current crisis.” »

  • Key challenges specific to unaccompanied migrant children

« Unaccompanied migrant children are, of course, particularly vulnerable to all these problems. Many of them face poverty, war or persecution in their countries of origin. During their journey to, or through, the EU, they are particularly vulnerable to smugglers or traffickers, as well as to sexual abuse. According to Ms McNeill, doctors in Save the Children’s Italy programme “found that 50% of the children they are dealing with have an STI [sexually transmitted infection]. That is evidence of them being sexually exploited in transit.”24 These traumatic experiences have long-term effects : according to the NGO Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (CARAS), “Depression, anxiety and PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] are all common, as well as living with extreme grief and loss.” »

  • The feasibility of an effective, common European approach
  • The ‘best interests principle’

Chapter 3 : Four underlying problems

  • ‘A culture of disbelief’
  • Age disputes
  • Family reunification
  • A culture of suspicion
  • Perceptions of degrees of vulnerability
  • ‘Someone else’s problem’
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Demonstrating solidarity
  • Poor implementation
  • The Best Interests of the Child Principle
  • The Common European Asylum System (CEAS)
  • Family Reunification
  • The EU Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010–2014)

« In May 2010 the Commission published an Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010–2014).157 The Action Plan identified insufficient data as a core problem across the EU. Beyond actions to improve the quality and quantity of data collection and exchange, it set out the following strands for action :

  • Prevention of unsafe migration and trafficking by increasing protection capacities in third countries ;
  • Reception and procedural guarantees in the EU ;
  • Finding durable solutions. »
    « Some key objectives of the 2010–2014 EU Action Plan on unaccompanied minors, including improved data collection and the development of durable solutions, have not yet been achieved. Regardless of its expiry in 2014, we consider the priorities set out within the existing Plan to be the right ones, and urge the EU institutions and Member States to take stock of outstanding measures and prioritise their implementation. »
  • Loss of trust
  • Loss of trust in officialdom
  • Dysfunction : delays and frustration with processes

Chapter 4 : Consequences

  • ‘Deplorable conditions’
  • Material conditions and detention
  • Registration and identification
  • Provision of legal advice and information
  • Access to healthcare and education
  • ‘Living in limbo’
  • Subsidiary protection and temporary leave to remain
  • Transition to adulthood : the prospect of return
  • Transition to adulthood : leaving care provisions
  • Increased vulnerability
  • Family reunification
  • 10,000 missing children
  • Missing children in the EU
  • Missing children in the UK
  • Preventing disappearances : understanding the reasons for children going missing
  • Discriminatory responses to missing unaccompanied migrant children

« Missing Children Europe was also particularly concerned about discriminatory practices in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary and Slovenia. These included different criteria or timeframes applied to reports of missing migrant children as opposed to missing nationals, differences in the follow-up to investigations, and distinctions drawn between missing migrant children who are asylum-seeking and those who are not. »

  • Cross-border cooperation
  • A lack of reliable and comparable data
  • Data on the movements of unaccompanied migrant children

« Prof Crawley noted that, while a number of different organisations, such as IOM or UNHCR, collected data on unaccompanied migrant children, the results were highly fragmented. This was in part because the data related not to a static population but to people on the move : Prof Crawley noted the work of Dr Nando Sigona of the University of Birmingham, which showed that mobility often resulted in double or triple counting. Prof Kohli agreed : “There is too much variability, too much double counting and miscounting, and a lot of confusion, at least around the edges.” »

  • Systematic collection, storage and sharing of data
  • Lack of appropriate disaggregation of existing data
  • Data on missing children

Chapter 5 : The way forward

  • Integrated child protection systems
  • A new Action Plan on unaccompanied minors ?

« As for the content of any new Action Plan, Ms Cronin suggested that the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings could be a useful model :
“First, it identifies the priorities that the entire package is directed to. It sets up a monitoring agency, GRETA [Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings], but it also puts the onus on state parties to identify trafficking victims … That would mean that once you have identified the child, as with the trafficking convention, you then have an obligation of protection and perhaps an assessment of their standing and status in the country. You would have a similar obligation with respect to unaccompanied children.” »

  • An integrated approach
  • Best interests of the child
  • Taking children’s views into account
  • Better data
  • Durable Solutions
  • Family Reunification
  • Return
  • Guardianship
  • Guardianship as a means to restore trust and ensure continuity
    of care
  • Benefits of an effective guardianship system
  • Elements of an effective guardianship system
  • Working together
  • Civil society
  • Coordination between Government departments
  • Local authorities
  • Solidarity among Member States
  • EU Agencies

Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations

Appendix 1 : List of Members and Declaration of Interest

Appendix 2 : List of Witnesses

Appendix 3 : Call for Evidence

Appendix 4 : Acronyms and Abbreviations

Appendix 5 : Distribution of unaccompanied migrant children in England

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