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Harmonising the protection of unaccompanied minors in Europe

Doc. 14142: compendium of written amendments | Doc. 14142 | 12/10/2016 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1Almost 90 000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in European Union countries in 2015 and in 2016 there are no signs of a reversal of the trend, as the total number of minors applying for asylum in the month of June 2016 alone stood at 30 000. The present migration and refugee crisis in Europe has exacerbated the challenges of how to treat and assist these children on the move, and generated new problems with the realisation that large numbers of children are going missing at different stages of their journey, especially directly after arrival at reception centres.
2New challenges to child protection have also emerged during the recent phases of the crisis, especially in the context of the partial or total closure of routes across Europe, followed by the first effects of the European Union–Turkey agreement of 18 March 2016. The international public was made aware of a major concern when the European Union law-enforcement agency Europol announced in January 2016 that 10 000 migrant minors were missing in Europe, and there is reason to believe that actual figures were much higher. In May this year, the total number for Germany alone rose to about 9 000, according to the German Federal Criminal Police.
3The Parliamentary Assembly has voiced its concern about the situation of unaccompanied migrant minors in Europe on several occasions and made proposals for solutions, in particular in its Recommendation 1969 (2011) and Resolution 1810 (2011) “Unaccompanied children in Europe: issues of arrival, stay and return”, which proposes 15 common principles for handling unaccompanied migrant children, with particular focus on the need to treat unaccompanied children first and foremost as children, not as migrants.

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 3, add the following sentence: "The Assembly regrets that, in the majority of member States, there is no legal definition of "missing children" as a separate category in national legislation."

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 3, add the following words: "The Assembly also regrets the fact that the absence of a legally binding definition of missing children has had a major negative impact on investigations, waiting times and levels of alarm."

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 3, add the following sentence: "The Assembly deeply regrets that the EU has discontinued the funding of the hotline (116 000) for missing children, established in almost all EU Member States, even though 54% of the staff were volunteers. Unfortunately, the number of calls has also decreased dramatically."

4Related issues, such as the determination of children’s age and ending immigration detention of children were taken up in Resolution 1996 (2014) “Migrant children: what rights at 18?” and in Recommendation 2056 (2014) on alternatives to immigration detention of children. These texts were the basis for the launching of the ongoing Parliamentary Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children.
5The Assembly recalls that the general principle of respect for migrant minors’ rights first and foremost as children implies that they should benefit from special protection, including social and health care which ensure their physical and psychological integrity and development, sufficient and child-friendly information, education and empowerment. On observation of the situation in member States, it is clear that these conditions are far from systematically afforded to unaccompanied migrant minors.
6The Assembly refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically Article 3 on the best interests of the child, Articles 19 and 20 on special protection and assistance from the State for unaccompanied and separated children, Article 22 on the rights of children seeking refugee status and General Comment No. 6 (2005) on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin, to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2016, as well as to the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights (ETS No. 160), the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201).
7The Assembly reiterates the principles set out in the European Commission Principles on integrated child protection systems, the Seven Point Plan for Refugee and Migrant Children of the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Guidelines of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Determining the Best Interests of the Child and other guidelines designed to serve as models for the treatment of unaccompanied migrant minors,
8The Assembly urges member States to work on a national and regional level and through international co-operation to improve the protection of unaccompanied migrant minors and to avoid them going missing, in particular by:
8.1in the context of international co-operation, including with countries of origin:
8.1.1ensuring that national police forces co-operate to constitute reliable, comprehensive and regularly updated databases on unaccompanied children who go missing, involve Europol in investigations against criminal groups that might harm and exploit unaccompanied children, as well as fully co-operating in efforts to track missing children and to support the further development of the Schengen Information System (SIS).

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.1.1, after the words "involve Europol" insert the words "and Frontex".

8.1.2assuring security protection of children from trafficking and criminal activities to which they are particularly vulnerable and stepping up co-operation with the countries of origin and transit in this area;
8.1.3harmonising the rules concerning the establishment of guardians and legal representatives and a common definition of their mandate and role;
8.1.4upholding the right to family reunion in the case of separated migrant minors, in accordance with each child’s right to live with their parents, as enshrined in Article 22 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.1.4, insert the following paragraph:

"recalling that a rights-based approach to the protection of children also involves reacting to violations;"

8.2in the context of national and regional policies and action:
8.2.1ensuring that all unaccompanied migrant children are adequately registered upon arrival in Europe, and that registration data are exchanged between the various authorities involved in their reception and care;

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.2.1, insert the following paragraph:

"assigning responsibilities to institutions specifically in charge of implementing programmes for the protection of unaccompanied migrant minors and for supervising and coordinating their asylum procedures involving various public authorities and services as well as civil society organisations;"

8.2.2ensuring that unaccompanied migrant minors are treated first and foremost as children immediately on arrival in Europe, and that they are allocated dedicated accommodation, access to health care and sanitary conditions which minimise their physical and psychological predicament;

12 October 2016

Tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

Votes: 43 in favor 0 against 1 abstention

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.2.2, after the words "dedicated accommodation," insert the following words: "protection against any form of violence and abuse (including sexual abuse and exploitation and human trafficking),"

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.2.2, replace the words "which minimise their physical and psychological predicament" with the following words: "which are conducive to their rapid recovery from physical and psychological hardship".

8.2.3providing child-friendly information and trained interpretation for children on arrival to avoid confusion and misunderstandings at the outset, which, added to substandard reception conditions, are a push factor in children’s decisions to abscond from reception centres;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.2.3., after the word "interpretation", insert the following words: "and counselling".

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.2.3, after the word "confusion", insert the following word: ", re-traumatisation".

8.2.4in cases where a child’s age cannot be established by identity documents and only where there is doubt as to the individual’s status as a minor, carrying out early and non-intrusive age assessment in full respect for the dignity and integrity of children;

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 8.2.4, insert the following words: "The procedure should be multidisciplinary and carried out by independent professionals, familiar with their ethnic, cultural and developmental characteristics. Similar principles should apply when there is a dispute over the country of origin;"

Explanatory note

We suggest modifying paragraph 8.2.4 about how age assessment should be carried out. We suggest that the assessment of age may be done by independent professionals who are familiar with the ethnic, cultural and developmental characteristics of children. We also propose the application of this process when there is doubt about the nationality of the children.

8.2.5improving or introducing accelerated asylum application procedures for unaccompanied minors, including the early designation of sufficiently trained guardians and legal representatives who can assist children and who are each allocated a small number of migrant children;
8.2.6ensuring that children have access to education on registration and throughout waiting periods, then facilitating their entry into mainstream education systems once the procedures for asylum or other forms of regularisation are engaged;
8.2.7allocating sufficient funding to the structures put in place for care and protection of unaccompanied migrant minors, in particular associations and other civil society bodies, but also ensuring that domestic legislation and regulations are adapted to provide specific administrative procedures for lone child migrants;
8.2.8with respect to missing migrant children, ensuring that responsibilities are transferred seamlessly during the different stages from reception to integration of migrant minors, in order to minimise the risk of unaccompanied minors “slipping through the gaps” in protection and absconding;

In the draft resolution, at the beginning of paragraph 8.2.8, replace the words "with respect to missing migrant children" with the following words: "to prevent unaccompanied migrant children from going missing".

8.2.9 identifying and implementing durable solutions for unaccompanied children, based on a thorough assessment of the best interests of the child, on her or his right to safety, protection and development and on the definition of a life project with each child, and establishing monitoring procedures on compliance with the best interests of the child in case of return of the children;
8.2.10in all cases, ensuring that unaccompanied or separated migrant minors are never refused entry into a country, in accordance with the non-refoulement obligations deriving from international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.2.10, insert the following paragraph:

"ensuring that while they are unaccompanied or separated, these children have access to a professional guardian to look after their well-being, legal representation and best interests."

Explanatory note

We propose a new paragraph suggesting the assignment of a professional guardian for unaccompanied children.

9The Assembly also calls on the European Union to continue taking into account the need for special protection for unaccompanied migrant minors when implementing the review of the Dublin III Regulation, in particular by introducing a provision on asylum applications for unaccompanied minors in the country where they are located, to avoid adding unnecessary transfers to their already traumatising journeys.