Europe has witnessed a significant increase in the number of refugee or migrant children arriving on their own or accompanied by their relatives. In 2015-2016 alone, 160 000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe. As most of them arrive to Europe by illegal paths risking encounters with traffickers and smugglers, they are often subjected to violence, abuse and exploitation.
Moreover, some European countries still continue the harmful practice of detention of migrant children, which has a detrimental effect on their health and development. Migrant children are often at risk of sexual violence, especially in migrant reception centres, where they are placed together with adults. They also fall victim to bullying, discrimination and xenophobia in the host countries. According to UNICEF reports, some migrant children are forced into prostitution and sexually exploited by smugglers and traffickers
Regrettably, the lack of joint governmental and non-governmental violence preventive strategy, specialised facilities to host migrant children, as well as professional and qualified staff put migrant children at serious risk of violence.
The governments of the Council of Europe member States should adopt a common strategy on how to combat violence against migrant children and ensure strong protection of their rights. This should include opening more opportunities for legal and safe entry of migrant children, implementing policies on alternative solutions to the detention of migrant children, and providing them with free access to all services and health protection, ensuring the best conditions for their adaptation to the new environment in the host countries. The Parliamentary Assembly, inspired by the achievements of the two-year parliamentary campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children, could take further action on the protection of migrant children.