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Missing refugee and migrant children in Europe

Doc. 15026: collection of written amendments | Doc. 15026 | 30/01/2020 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly is deeply concerned by United Nations reports that one registered migrant child was reported dead or missing every day between 2014 and 2018 worldwide. It is aware that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg and that many more have actually gone missing or died seeking shelter in another country, but these disappearances have not been recorded. The Assembly refers to its Resolution 2136 (2016) on harmonising the protection of unaccompanied minors in Europe, which drew attention to Europol’s January 2016 declaration that 10 000 migrant minors were missing in Europe, followed by a statement by the German authorities according to which 9 000 were estimated missing in Germany alone. It does not appear that these figures have decreased substantially, and there remains a serious lack of international awareness about the situation regarding missing refugee and migrant children.
2Children are a particularly vulnerable group of migrants and asylum seekers and are therefore in need of special protection against the multiple dangers they face along their journey, among them violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and exploitation. Many forms of violence against migrant and refugee children lead to their disappearance, as they “vanish” into the clandestine networks which remove them ever further from the protection and care to which they are entitled, firstly and foremost as children, then as migrants and refugees. National parliaments and governments of member States must do whatever is necessary and required in the best interests of the child to avoid the disappearance of child refugees and migrants, thereby reducing risks to their lives and their physical and mental integrity.
3Criminal activity is, however, far from being the only cause of the disappearance of child migrants. Sub-standard reception conditions, fear of detention, summary returns or refoulement and lack of good guardianship, among others, are additional motivations for children to disappear, either alone or in small groups, in the hope of reaching their ideal destination unassisted. These factors in turn may lead to children falling into a downward spiral towards further trauma, violence and abuse.
4The Assembly recalls that all Council of Europe member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and therefore must uphold the best interests of children as a primary consideration, affording them all the protection and care necessary to their well-being. In this regard, member States should ensure that:
4.1reception conditions and care for child migrants and refugees fulfil basic rights and needs, taking into account the special requirements for the protection of children; on no account should children be placed in detention;

In the draft resolution, before paragraph 4.1, insert the following paragraph:

"the highest standard of protection is provided to all refugee and migrant children, regardless of their status;"

4.2refugee and migrant children are accommodated as far as possible with their families; every effort should be made to reunite separated refugee and migrant families, 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;

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 74 in favor 12 against 2 abstentions

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4.2, replace the words: "in accordance with each child’s right to live with their parents as enshrined in" with the following words: "in line with".

4.3parents, family members and friends are given the necessary information and means to contact child protection services or the police when a child refugee or migrant goes missing; child refugees and migrants should also be given the necessary information and means to contact a child protection agency or the police where they are in a position to do so. The police and child protection agencies must be adequately trained in addressing the cases of missing child refugees and migrants;
4.4schools, reception centres and those responsible for accommodating and caring for the needs of child refugees and migrants immediately inform child protection agencies and the police if a child goes missing;
4.5research into cases of disappearance of migrant and refugee children is supported and promoted, and serves to inform policy and practice in this area;

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 88 in favor 0 against 8 abstentions

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 4.5, insert the following paragraph:

"feedback from refugees and migrants, including children, on the responses to the problem of missing refugee and migrant children is taken into consideration, in ways that are appropriate, useful and safe, in particular with the help of national human rights institutions and civil society organisations active in this area. This should not delay, impede or prejudice migration and refugee status procedures;"

4.6national and regional media, including the press, audio-visual and social networks, are alerted to the situation concerning the disappearance of refugee and migrant children and launch appropriate action to raise awareness about disappearances and help find missing children, while ensuring that information circulated does not interfere with police procedures or with the individual right to privacy;

30 January 2020

Tabled by Ms Zeynep YILDIZ, Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY, Mr Ali ŞAHİN, Mr Mehmet Mehdi EKER, Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Votes: 89 in favor 1 against 8 abstentions

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 4.6, insert the following words: "The Parliamentary Assembly should set an example by publishing, through its various media resources, a database of good practices for preventing disappearances and searching for missing children with a view to reunification with their families;"

Explanatory note

Preventing the disappearance of and reuniting these children with their families are among the objectives of this report. The examples of good practice and success stories should be brought to the attention of the European public. It is most appropriate to use the Council of Europe's media resources to that end.

4.7international co-operation between the police and judicial authorities is stepped up to avoid the disappearance of child refugees and migrants, through Interpol, the Schengen Information System (SIS), Europol, Eurojust as well as through mutual legal assistance. Child refugees and migrants who go missing should be included in the Yellow Notices of Interpol and be the subject of a notification in the SIS;
4.8civil society organisations helping to find missing children are supported in their work, which should not be obstructed or misused. The awareness-raising campaigns of these organisations and help-lines set up, such as that of Missing Children Europe should be supported by financial and human resources. Provisions facilitating the activities of non-governmental organisations working in the field of missing refugee and migrant children should be stipulated in the national legislation of member states.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 4.8, insert the following paragraph:

"adequate financial resources are made available for the prevention of the disappearance of refugee and migrant children."

5Undocumented child migrants are extremely vulnerable as they are deprived of the protection of the law. In order to prevent child migrants from becoming or remaining undocumented, member States should make sure that:
5.1undocumented child migrants are registered and identified with public authorities, by registering their names, date and place of birth, parents’ names, biometric facial photo, digital fingerprints and other identifying data, while taking into account the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS N° 108) as amended. Due attention should be devoted to the protection of the human rights of children and the best interests of the child during registration and identification, including by recourse to specific safeguards;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.1, second sentence, after the words "during registration", insert the following words: ", capturing of biometric data".

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 95 in favor 4 against 2 abstentions

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 5.1, insert the following sentences: "The children concerned should be duly informed on how this data will be used. On no account should physical or psychological force be used to obtain fingerprints;"

5.2once registration and identification data on undocumented child migrants has been gathered, it is shared via networks such as Interpol, the SIS, Frontex and bilateral agreements; this will help to reduce the likelihood of child migrants being considered as missing in one country when they are actually registered in another;
5.3lost identification documents are registered in Interpol’s database of Stolen and Lost Travel Documents;
5.4undocumented migrant children with special needs, including mental and physical disabilities preventing them from expressing themselves adequately, are given special, individualised medical and psychological care as appropriate.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.4, before the words "with special needs", insert the following words: "in particular those".

6Unaccompanied child refugees and migrants are particularly vulnerable as they are outside their parental care and protection or of that of close family members. In this regard, member States should ensure that:

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 92 in favor 4 against 1 abstention

In the draft resolution, paragraph 6, after the word "unaccompanied", insert the following words: "and separated".

6.1for the purpose of reuniting refugee and migrant families, active research is carried out to find parents. Co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should be stepped up, in order to facilitate family reunification across Europe and to ensure more efficient family reunification processes in accordance with human rights;

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 90 in favor 4 against 3 abstentions

In the draft resolution, paragraph 6.1, after the word "parents", insert the following words: "or other members of the family".

6.2an adequately trained, individual guardian is appointed on reception of children and migration status procedures undertaken for them within the shortest possible timeframe;

30 January 2020

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

Votes: 92 in favor 3 against 3 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 6.2 by the following paragraphs:

"an adequately trained, individual guardian is appointed on reception of children as early as possible; migration status procedures are undertaken for refugee and migrant children within the shortest possible timeframe, and with due respect to the right to a fair procedure and right to an effective remedy;”

6.3guardians appointed to unaccompanied child refugees and migrants are provided with efficient and easily accessible mechanisms (such as hotlines) for immediately liaising with child protection services and the police when a child goes missing;
6.4accelerated and humane relocation programmes to other European countries of particularly vulnerable refugee and migrant children (such as unaccompanied children) are implemented, where living conditions are sub-standard, do not ensure sufficient care for children and their best interests, and where improvements are not effective or foreseen.
7Measures for the prevention of child refugees and migrants going missing should take into account intentional disappearances from host families, guardianship, schools, accommodation facilities or other structures. In this regard, member States should ensure that:
7.1reception facilities are protected and open and are provided with the necessary resources to meet at least basic health and safety standards, and professional staff is adequately trained in the care of child refugees and migrants, who are often deeply traumatised and have special needs;
7.2child migrants receive added protection and counselling where their asylum application is likely to be refused, especially when official notice of rejection of international protection status is approaching, in order to prevent them from absconding. Any return to their country of origin or to a safe third country must be carried out with appropriate assistance adapted to children, and child-friendly information must be communicated at all stages of the procedure. Particular attention should be given to the protection of girls at risk of absconding, as they are highly vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 7.2, insert the following paragraph:

"gender sensitive policies are developed, and gender sensitive facilities, such as separate and secure housing, are made available to child refugees and migrants."

8Welcoming the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Assembly recognises that the issue of missing child refugees and migrants requires more attention and effort by national authorities. International, national and regional media should be encouraged to raise awareness of the scale and importance of the problem of missing migrant and refugee children and help with locating them, and with their protection once found. The Assembly also invites national parliaments to establish a parliamentary commissioner or general rapporteur on missing refugees and migrants, with a particular focus on children.
9Aware that countries hosting high numbers of migrants and refugees might not have the means to effectively prevent children from going missing, the Assembly calls on the European Union and the United Nations to provide technical and financial assistance to avoid their disappearance as far as possible, and to facilitate family reunification of separated refugee and migrant families.

BDraft Recommendation

1Referring to its Resolution … (2020) on missing refugee and migrant children in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly emphasises the importance of preventing child refugees and migrants from going missing and of doing everything possible to find children who have gone missing, in order to avoid them falling victim of violence, abuse, human trafficking and organ trafficking.
2While the Council of Europe does not have specific action for missing refugee and migrant children, some of its bodies and instruments may be of added value in preventing the disappearance of these children. Therefore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
2.1invite the States parties to the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) and the States parties to the Convention for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (CETS No. 201) to share national experiences in prevention of the disappearance of child refugees and migrants in the context of human trafficking or sexual exploitation;
2.2invite the States parties to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (ETS No. 30) to consider coordinated strategies for mutual assistance and the exchange of information concerning missing refugee and migrant children as well as unidentified dead children, for instance by making use of the Interpol Yellow and Black Notices and the Schengen Information System;
2.3recognising the work of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, especially its Resolution 428 and Recommendation 414 (2018) on unaccompanied refugee children: the role and responsibilities of local and regional authorities, encourage the Congress to continue addressing this issue as well as that of migrant street children as set out in Congress Resolution 271 (2008) on the social reintegration of children living and/or working on the streets, especially in relation to measures to prevent children going missing;
2.4invite the Ad hoc Committee for the Rights of the Child (CAHENF) to examine policies to prevent the disappearance of migrant children in the context of its work on guardianship and its review of Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)9 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on life projects for unaccompanied migrant minors.
3Recognising the concrete action to protect children fleeing war, violence and persecution carried out in the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019), the Assembly commends the special focus given by the plan to unaccompanied children. It therefore asks the Committee of Ministers to give high priority to the evaluation and follow-up to the Action Plan, and to support the promotion and use of the tools developed in its framework. Renewed priority should be given to this area, to ensure continuity with the work already achieved.