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Opening of sitting No. 25

Elections: Judges to the European Court of Human Rights

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:05:56

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The meeting is now in session.

The next item is the second round of voting for the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Germany.

I would remind you that for this second round of voting, the election is held by a relative majority.

The list of candidates and their biographical notes can be found in document number 14884.

For this election, the vote will take place in the rotunda behind the presidency.

The election will be suspended at 12 noon and will resume at 3.30 pm to be closed at 5 pm.

The counting will take place immediately afterwards under the usual conditions under the supervision of four tellers whom we will appoint by drawing lots:

Mr EFSTATHIOU, Mr ŞAHİN, Mr HUSEYNOV, and Mr HOWELL.

That's perfect, thank you. Knowing that the result of the vote will be announced, if possible before the end of this afternoon's sitting, for this election the vote is open.

We are continuing our work during this time.

Proposals for changes in the composition of committees are published in document Commission 2019 06 Addendum 3.

Any objections to this amendment?

This is not the case: they are therefore adopted.

Ladies and gentlemen, this morning we have a large number of speakers wishing to speak in the joint debate. However, we have to adjourn the meeting at 12 noon because of the meeting of the Joint Committee. I therefore propose the following adjustment: continue the joint debate this afternoon. If you agree, we will interrupt the list of speakers at 12 noon and resume this afternoon at 3.30 pm, which will allow everyone to speak before we can vote on the amendments and on the draft resolution and recommendation.

Is there any objection to this proposal? This is not the case: it is therefore decided so.

Thank you very much.

The next item of business this afternoon is the presentation of and discussion on two reports on ending violence against children.

We will first hear the presentation by Mrs MASSEY on behalf of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee of the report entitled Ending violence against children, a contribution of the Council of Europe to sustainable development objectives.

Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR will then present on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons the report entitled Ending violence against and exploitation of migrant children.

Mrs FATALIYEVA will present the opinion of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee.

We begin with the report of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee.

Mrs MASSEY, you have 13 minutes' speaking time at your disposal, which you can divide as you wish between the presentation of the report and the reply to the various speeches.

You have the floor.

Thank you.

Joint debate: Ending violence against children: a Council of Europe contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals / Stop violence against, and exploitation of, migrant children

Baroness Doreen MASSEY

United Kingdom, SOC, Rapporteur 

10:10:44

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Good morning colleagues. Ladies and gentlemen.

This has been a week of turbulence, noise and anxiety. In the midst of all that, it has been very good to see this Assembly also discussing fundamental issues of our human existence. Things such as mental health, women's health, and now for the second time, children's issues. It is a very important issue. I look forward to hearing my colleague Rosa express her opinions in her report.

It's an honour and a pleasure to read and present this report today. I shall first assess something about violence against children generally. I shall then speak about the global Sustainable Development Goals. And finally draw together the implications of the Goals for ending violence against children.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A highly significant intervention for children around the world. We accept that violence against children is abhorrent, but that it goes on in families and communities nationally and internationally. Child violence has many components. Physical, mental and emotional. Its consequences for children are horrendous. It affects their lives and their relationships. Violence against children may be dramatic and eye-catching. It often hits headlines, such as the death of children at hand of adults due to beating, starvation, neglect, being tortured with knife or burn wounds. But violence against children may also be hidden as in peer-to-peer violence or child sexual abuse. It may be international, through the horrors of trafficking in human conditions and abuse. It may be due to conflict in certain countries such as we have seen recently in Libya. Children, innocent of the inception of violence suffer hardship of the most extreme kinds. Many die.

My report calls for violence against children to be a political priority. The Council of Europe including the Assembly itself has prioritised the fight to end violence against children for over a decade. We are well placed to support other states to address the challenges towards ending violence against children but there are of course huge challenges.

Now onto the SDGs. Sustainable Development Goals are about making the world a better safer place for all, including children. In September 2015 world leaders agreed 17 Sustainable Development Goals which promised to end extreme poverty inequality and climate change by 2030. They include better health, better education, better equalities, more peace and justice, clean energy, responsible consumption. They call for world partnerships. This global agreement was signed by 193 UN Member states. Three of the girls associated targets relate to children directly. I shall focus on Target 16.2 which is to end exploitation, abuse, trafficking and all forms of violence to children. Paragraph 2 of my report affirms that the Council of Europe has focused determinedly on violence against children. It has developed standards and norms, also for their monitoring and implementation. It has provided guidance, support and capacity building to ensure efficient and effective application. It has provided a unique multi-stakeholder platform for the exchange of good practice, cooperation, data collection and awareness raising.

The Council of Europe has developed many connected, mobilised, politically influential active partnerships. Not only at parliamentary level but at national and local level, in civil society and with children themselves. I'm calling on this Assembly to recommend that Council of Europe Member States make combating violence against children a national priority and ensure that structures are in place to do this effectively. The Council of Europe can set a good example as it has done in many of its programmes. For example the innovative and sustained One in Five campaign with it's many components and various initiatives such as the setting up of children's houses on the Icelandic model. Such a targeted approach to violence against children will need sufficient allocation of budgets to deliver results, high quality services in health education, social services, and child Justice. It includes support for victims of child violence. It includes consultation at local levels with consumers, including children, on the appropriateness, design and effectiveness of services.

National action plans and strategies on the implementation of the 2030 agenda are needed. Action plans must involve stakeholders at every level, from parliamentarians through to local regional authorities, communities including parents and children and civil society. Such an approach has already been recommended by the Council of Europe to the Committee of Ministers in 2009. I'm aware that many nations have their own domestic laws, initiatives and strategies to fight violence against women and children. We must not forget that aid to the world's poorest and most vulnerable people is an important issue for wealthier countries. This aid is essential for development assistance. The target of expenditure on aid has been set at 0'7% of GNI, recognised by a UN Resolution. Countries of the Council of Europe are encouraged to improve levels of funding and resources to poor countries in order to provide programmes to combat violence against children worldwide and contribute to ending poverty and hunger.

The Council of Europe is well placed to encourage national debates and debates within our own Assembly, to support the ending of violence against children, to encourage the establishment of child rights committees, to encourage national budgeting for intervention affecting children and to encourage networking amongst parliaments regionally and globally. And to encourage, importantly, the participation of children. In the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has the broadest mandate on protecting children from violence. A subcommittee on children was recreated in 2017. Other subcommittees such as those on migration, refugees and displaced persons, the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. All the work of these committees must intertwine to form a powerful force for change.

I mentioned the One in Five campaign earlier. There have been other initiatives on child mental health, child friendly justice and the You Start to Talk campaign on sexual abuse in sport run by the enlarged partial agreement in sport involving the Council of Europe. We had a meeting in Georgia last year. All these initiatives are produced or are producing significant and important developments. Major actions underway by the Lanzarote Committee and by the Children's Rights Division. Standards and strategies are monitored through the engagement of parliamentarians, civil society and international players.

But challenges remain. Firstly, accurate and contemporary data is often scarce. Secondly, coordination strategies across organisations and within individual governments must be improved. A third and significant challenge is our attitudes towards children who deserve their Human rights and equal protection and empowerment. They're too often seen as being irrelevant to decision making. The fourth challenge is prioritisation. A difficult issue for governments amidst so many issues vying for attention. But violence against children needs funding and deserves to be a priority not just because it's humane and right to protect children, but because in the long term early intervention on children's issues save money for governments.

I believe that all these issues make a profound case for the Sustainable Development Goals to place high emphasis on violence against children as the Council of Europe has done for many years. Such a high emphasis will help to create a better world for our children and for subsequent generations. Thank you Madam Chair.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:19:55

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Thank you, Madam rapporteur.

You have four minutes left to respond to the interventions of the speakers during the debate.

I now give the floor to Ms. BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR, to present the report from the Migration Committee.

Here again, you have a total time of 13 minutes to divide as you wish.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, Rapporteur 

10:20:19

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Dear Madam President, dear colleagues,

We are now discussing and debating an issue that touches the most vulnerable groups in our society: migrant children that are faced with violence.

I would like to start this presentation by sharing my impressions from the visit to the La Purisima centre for unaccompanied minors in Melilla. Melilla is a Spanish city on the African continent, which has a direct boarder with Morocco. Every day around 14 000 people are crossing the border in Melilla, including children. Around 1.000 unaccompanied migrant children are registered in the city. However, the exact number of them is unknown.

Many of them arrive with adults, parents or close relatives, who often abandon them hoping that they will find working or educational opportunities. Some children arrive as irregular migrants trafficked by criminal gangs.

While the La Purisima centre has an official capacity of 170 places, it hosts nearly 650 minors. The majority of them come from Morocco, but also Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. The centre is overcrowded, and although the staff is doing its best to look after the children, it is obvious that the centre is not able to cope with such large numbers. In many cases children share beds, and the rooms are generally very dark and very poorly furnished. The educators even told me that, in some cases, children themselves were constructing their beds.

To limit the number of residents in the centre, the administration has decided to close the doors of the centre at 10 p.m., so that all boys who arrive later are obliged to spend the night outdoors. This practice certainly puts them at an increased risk of exposure to violence.

The situation of migrant children in the La Purisima centre, is but one of many examples of situations where migrant children are vulnerably exposed to violence.

In a number of countries, migrant children face abuse as a result of poor conditions in reception and detention centres or transit zones. Also, due to a lack of standards and good practices.

Moreover, unaccompanied minors, who entered European countries illegally or are living on the streets to avoid deportation, are at a high risk of being subject to sexual violence and assault.

Migrant children are also at risk of different types of exploitation. Such as human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and undocumented workers.

Even in cases where migrant children are able to access and participate in the national education system, and official programmes by State authorities, they may face discrimination and xenophobia in host countries. Which, as a result, can lead to them being exposed to various types of violence.

In the report, I seek to analyse the root causes and reasons of child migration, the factors that influence their vulnerability on the migration route, and the different forms of violence that migrant children face.

Children migrate to escape violence, armed conflict, persecution, ravages of climate change and natural disasters, as well as poverty. Many young migrants set out to find opportunities for work or education. In other cases, children leave home to avoid the prospect of forced marriage, female genital mutilation or gender-based violence — in the case of girls — or forced military conscription — regarding boys —.

Many children, especially unaccompanied or separated, fall between the cracks of asylum systems that are overburdened, inefficient and inconsistent. Often children are detained in detention facilities, in police custody airports or transit zones, because of a lack of space in child protection centres and limited capacity for identifying alternative solutions. The lack of legal channels for migration, results in many migrant children taking dangerous, illegal routes, which often require them to go through smugglers. Furthermore, they often have to flee detention centres once they arrive, because of the violence they endure in these facilities. According to Europol, nearly 90% of migrants irregularly entering Europe have been helped by smugglers, and the agency reported that the number of suspected smugglers has nearly doubled since 2015.

On their arrival, migrant children whose age is disputed, are often subjected to age assessment procedure. In many countries, the methods used to assess the age of children, include the use of X-ray examinations, in the form of dental or wrist X-rays, or genital examination. Such methods risk to traumatise or re-traumatise a child.

The current age assessment practices in Europe vary from country to country. Guidance, training and support for those tasked with undertaking age assessment, is often lacking. This lack of training and guidance is disconcerting, since the consequences of incorrect determination, or dispute over a child’s age, are not only detrimental to the health and well-being of a child. But can lead to a child being treated as an adult, and thus being subject to immigration detention.

Children often mistrust the system, and are afraid of being prevented from continuing their journey by authorities; as a consequence, up to 50% of unaccompanied migrant children go missing within 48 hours of being placed in reception centres in Europe. Some go missing with a specific destination in mind, or run away out of fear of being sent back to the situation they tried to escape from. Others are victims of kidnapping, trafficking, sexual exploitation and economic exploitation, including forced donation of organs, prostitution, forced drug smuggling and begging.

One of the issues that I address in my report is violence against migrant children in detention facilities, transit zones and migrant centres. Due to the huge numbers of migrants who have landed on European shores in recent years, particularly in Italy and Greece, facilities became overwhelmed, leading to many difficulties. But also in Spain, the situation is still problematic at the land border between Morocco and the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla. Due to the number of migrants trying to cross, and those that are already accommodated in facilities and detention centres in those cities, as I mentioned earlier.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), puts clear obligations on all States signatories to protect unaccompanied and separated children. The States should ensure that a best interests determination procedure is legislated and implemented for each migrant child. As it involves a comprehensive assessment of the child's background and current situation, the procedure offers important opportunities for identifying incidents of violence, as well as any risks, and to respond to them in an appropriate manner.

I am proud to say that our Assembly, and in particular, our Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, has contributed significantly to the efforts to end exploitation of, and violence against, migrant children. Through the adoption of a number of relevant resolutions and the implementation of the Parliamentary Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children. This campaign was a pioneering action at the time of its launch, in April 2015.

Yesterday, at the final conference of the campaign, we summed up the results achieved during the last three years. The Campaign has strengthened the role of the national parliaments in protecting and promoting the Human Rights of migrant children, and has significantly raised awareness of this issue among the stakeholders. It has identified and promoted several concrete non-custodial alternatives, and good practices of care and accommodation of unaccompanied minors, NGO or government-run programmes, around Europe.

The Campaign was also instrumental in drawing attention to the issue of age assessment practices. Which led to the related PACE Resolution in 2017, calling on member States to support and promote the development of a holistic model of age assessment in Europe, based on the presumption of a child’s minority. Based on these developments, recently, I submitted an initiative for legislative change regarding age assessment in my own Parliament. And I urge you, parliamentarians, to do the same back home.

I would like to underline that the Council of Europe must continue to have an important role to play in preventing violence and exploitation on migrant children. The member States of the Council of Europe should develop a common strategy on how to combat violence against migrant children, in all its forms, and to ensure broad and comprehensive protection of their Human Rights. Such a strategy, should include proposals on how to ensure safe and legal entry for migrant children from third States, in order to avoid the risk of them being at the mercy of human traffickers.

Finally, I would like to briefly outline a set of recommendations on how to combat the violence against migrant children, emphasising the need for legislative actions: forbidding the detention of migrant children and other forms of violence; providing safeguards related to the asylum process; to allow children to legally challenge and demand judicial review of decisions relating to their asylum requests. Also, gender awareness must be incorporated in national responses to asylum-seeking children. More joint projects and inter-governmental cooperation should be promoted among law enforcement authorities, with the help of Europol and Interpol, in order to effectively identify organised crime networks, and human traffickers, which are exploiting and subjecting migrant children to violence. The authorities and governments of member States should be encouraged to include the relevant work of NGOs in their official programmes, in order to ensure a wide-ranging and broad protection of all migrant children. Guardianship and legal representation should be available for each child.

The Council of Europe should underline, and put forward, best practices and successful policies implemented by certain member States. Such as asylum officers specialising only in assistance and care for migrant children, providing child-friendly information in the child’s native language, and creating areas that are devoted solely to migrant children, in transit zones and police stations.

I also think that it is very important to develop the European standards for the reception centres for migrant children, and the Council of Europe can take a lead in this task.

Speaking about the draft recommendation addressed to the Committee of Ministers, the main idea is to support the on-going activities of the intergovernmental sector, in particular, of the monitoring mechanism of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Group of experts on action against trafficking in human beings (referred to as "GRETA" ) and of the Ad hoc Committee on the Rights of the Child (CAHENF) and the Lanzarote Committee.

Dear colleagues, only a week ago, we commemorated World Refugee Day. We are also faced with the news coming from the borders of the United States and Mexico, where children are in detention centres. We are also faced with news from the Mediterranean Sea, regarding the illegal crossing of migrants and the danger that people are faced with every day, in their search for a better life. We should do all our best to protect this vulnerable group, and do not forget the humanity that is the core of all our work. 

(APPLAUSE)

 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:32:38

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Thank you, Madam Rapporteur.

I now give the floor to Mrs FATALIYEVA to present the opinion of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee.

Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA

Azerbaijan, EC, Rapporteur for opinion 

10:32:50

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Thank you, Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen. 

As the Assembly’s rapporteur on “Ending child poverty in Europe”, “Protection of children affected by armed conflict” and “Preventing the radicalisation of children by fighting the root causes”, I attach utmost importance to the protection of children’s rights. So it is a great honour for me to contribute to this important report.

As a result of armed conflict, children and their families, in search of a better and safer life, leave their homes. But the new places do not guarantee a happy life, children face various difficulties. And poverty, living in difficult social and financial conditions, contributes to their radicalisation. This report joined all these challenges regarding migrant children and sends the right message to member States. I therefore appreciate the initiative and the work of Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR.

Indeed, the number of unaccompanied minors amongst the migrant population are growing at an alarming speed. Still, thousands of children end up in prison-like conditions on European soil. Leaving aside the human costs of this approach, it is also likely to fuel violence and conflict within our societies.

Definitely, financial support is essential. But, even if individual member States devote substantial funds to developing their responses to migration, a stronger political commitment and priority to children’s well-being is a necessity.

I highly value the rapporteur’s emphasis on creating channels for safe, legal and regular migration, thereby strengthening safeguards for children and their family members. Indeed, there is no better protection measure than creating such channels, and family reunification is an essential part of this process. Thirty-six recommendations on reviewing relevant laws, policies and practices, highlighting the importance of abolishing the restrictions in this area, were made by Mr MUIŽNIEKS, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. And I would like to encourage all of us to make full use of all of this when reviewing relevant legislation in our countries.

As mentioned by the rapporteur, in the context of migration, such measures as foster care, supervised independent living and reporting obligations, are being introduced by different countries and have positive results. These measures have an enormous potential for improving the well-being of the children concerned, and also our societies. To develop such measures, we need both political commitment and resources, in order to implement relevant policies.

Children must be provided with child-friendly and age-appropriate information about asylum possibilities, and other rights. Too often, such information is not easily accessible, so children do not know about the existing possibilities and, therefore, cannot use them.

Furthermore, I would also suggest that the Assembly should call on the European Parliament to review the EU’s targeted support and outsourcing of migration management to third countries, which has led to inhuman and degrading treatment of migrants in such countries. With their most basic needs not being met, and with children being exposed to extreme levels of violence and deprivation.

The Assembly has long been campaigning against the detention of children in the context of migration. And, in my view, it is important to specify that reception centres for migrant children should be non-custodial. Open structures, but not to be misunderstood as justifying detention in some form.

Ladies and gentleman, ensuring the protection of children’s rights, with special attention to the most vulnerable ones, will allow us to build a “Europe with a human face”, and a safer world.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:36:29

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Thank you Mrs. FATALIYEVA.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind you that the second round of voting for the election of a judge or judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Germany is in progress and I urge you to participate in this election. You can go behind the presidency.

In the general discussion, I give the floor to Mrs SAYEK BÖKE on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC 

10:37:02

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Thank you very much, Madam President. 

Home is where the heart is but, unfortunately, very heartbreakingly for millions of children their homes, their schools, their communities are where they first face violence. As we frequently hear, violence wears a familiar face. But violence also has unfamiliar faces. When a humanitarian crisis outbreaks, it is the children who are most affected with grave material and psychosocial effects. Violence in campsites visited out of will as in the news today from Lügde or out of obligation, such as refugee camps. It is everywhere.

And numbers speak millions if not billions of words and lives. One billion children, that is half of all children, are estimated to have experienced emotional physical and/or sexual violence. Every five minutes a child dies from violence. And nearly 1 in every 4 children in the world is living in a country affected by conflict or disaster. Many risk abuse, trafficking and exploitation. We clearly need action - stronger than we already have - and we needed urgently.

In this regard, I would like to congratulate all rapporteurs for their very diligent and timely reports on these issues. We have to start by emphasising the rights of children. Rights that should be enshrined in national constitutions. Rights that should be protected through a coordinated national and international strategy and legal framework.

Experience shows that policy changes can have impact. Inadequately protected and cared children are at higher risk of experiencing violence. Therefore, we need the funding. We need the political will to enhance the welfare state. We have to provide not only equal opportunity but we have to ensure equal outcomes for every child. We have to resist the austerity-focused neo-liberal policies that attack much-needed welfare state policies. We need stronger child benefit programmes, more investment in equal and fair education.

Children have to learn of equality of early ages, so should their parents and caregivers. Gender equality has to be internalised in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our communities. Response services provision, effective emergency care, appropriate psychosocial support have to be part of the welfare state. 

All children - and I emphasise all - regardless of where they are born, where they choose to live or where they are enforced to spend their life, they all deserve fair conditions. Ensuring these conditions is not only critical for the rights and the well-being of current generations but have strong intergenerational implications.

We have to do this, not only for our today, but we have to do it for our tomorrow as well. So let's strongly support these reports and let's save today as well as tomorrow.

(APPLAUSE)

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:40:00

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mr HOWELL, for the European Conservatives.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC 

10:40:07

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Thank you Madam President.

I'd like to start by quoting a sentence from the report. That sentence says the following: These fora are not just talking shops with no results. And neither are the Council of Europe standards and strategies, or the Parliamentary Assembly resolutions and recommendations insignificant.

Now that may be an English understatement but I think that it is worthwhile remembering that because it stresses the importance of both of these reports. And why are these reports important? They're important because they cover issues that are absolutely crucial to what we do and what we believe. Yes, they are about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. But they are also, and I echo the words of one of the reporters here, they are also about our basic humanity. About being able to assist people who are unable to help themselves at all in this. And I would stress the importance too of the Lanzarote Convention.

The question that I would ask here is how we make sure that the Lanzarote Convention is better known amongst the citizens of Europe rather than just amongst parliamentarians such as ourselves. It is very good for us to be able to to have the Lanzarote Convention and to follow it. But to get real buy-in to it is absolutely crucial.

There are two issues that are mentioned in this report that I would like to stress. One is social media. I realise that social media can play an important part in all our lives. But it has a big impact on children and I know that it is the concern of governments all the way around Europe: how to control or how to influence social media. I think it was very telling that in this report there was one sentence that said that governments are 15 years behind the development of the internet. That's 15 years behind being able to protect our children and the children of migrants from the use of the internet. As I say it's not all bad, but we have to work really hard on the ways in which it can help rather than to hinder it.

Following from that is the issue of mental health that the report also touches on and it partly arose from those comments on social media. It's necessary to take this seriously. and I am pleased with the actions of my own government to tackle mental health issues in schools. To have not only counsellors there to be able to provide the mental health counselling that children need, but also to provide the sort of education other children need to be able to recognise and to deal with that issue.

I think, turning just briefly to the second report, I think that that points out the enormous problems that there are with the smugglers and traffickers who are doing an enormous evil to our world in trafficking, particularly children.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:43:34

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, on behalf of the ALDE Group.

Ms Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ

Spain, ALDE 

10:43:42

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Dear Colleagues.

I entirely agree with what has been said by others in stating that the exploitation of children is one of the most serious issues we've ever had to deal with here and it is something we shall continue to deal with in future with all the seriousness it deserves.

This is a tragedy and what is tragic is that we come back to this time after time and we still do not manage to eradicate sexual violence. We actually find that one fifth of all children in Europe suffer from some kind of violence. We also see that 70-75% of children who are victims of abuse, including sexual violence, are victims of people they know and this means that the trust children should have in adults is undermined and sapped and children lose their innocence once and for all. It's tragic and we have to work for them here. We can't just say "look, these are children, they don't vote, they don't matter". Quite the opposite: each and every one of us does its utmost to fight for the future of our countries and that means for the children of our countries.

That's what we all want, we want to see the well-being of our countries in the future and what's going to make that well-being a reality? Our children when they grow up If we don't fight for children, we don't protect them, who's going to do it? We have to allow children to grow up in the way that they should and that will guarantee the very future of our democracies. That's why, this has to be at the heart of all of our programmes.

The UN 2030 Agenda is a global commitment to sustainable development and sustainable development has to become a reality for all of us. That means that protection of children today has to be at the heart of what we do in order to guarantee a good future for all of us tomorrow. We need to take specific steps right now. These reports talk about structural changes that have to be made in order to allow children to develop as they should, to be empowered, to become fully functioning autonomous adults, in the way that they should. And we know that violence against children actually is particularly a problem for migrant children because they're discriminated against twice over: they're migrants and they're children. And we recognise that this has been something that has been tackled by some extent by the measures in the Lanzarote Convention but those measures have to be put into practice so that children can be genuinely protected.

I would like to thank the rapporteurs for the work that they've done and I would like to say to all of you, and I say to myself also, that we must not forget what we are doing here. We mustn't forget that we are fighting for a better world and that means fighting for children of today.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

10:46:50

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Thank you very much.

For the United European Left, Mr Paul GAVAN from Ireland. Please.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, UEL 

10:46:56

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Thank you Chairperson.

On behalf of the United European Left I want to commend the authors of these two excellent reports and fully endorse their recommendations.

We are aware of the deep humanitarian crises that war, imperialism, poverty, inequality, persecutions and climate change are causing across the world. Many of the refugees and migrants that have come to Europe in recent times seeking sanctuary and a better life are children. Many of them are unaccompanied. They are at a severe risk of exploitation.

The United European Left agrees with this report recommendation that parties to the Lanzarote Convention need to take urgent action to ensure they fully comply with its recommendations regarding protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from exploitation and abuse. We join with the rapporteurs in fully condemning violent practices such as detention and using invasive methods in age assessment procedures. We must provide appropriate safeguards for children in the context of migration.

I particularly welcome the call for the development of the European standards for reception centres for migrant children. As part of a PACE delegation for the campaign to end the immigration detention of children, I witnessed first-hand the disgraceful treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in Hungry. Children imprisoned in a small caged compound and never let out. Not even for one minute of one day during their incarceration in the so-called transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border.

I spoke to three inmates between 14 and 16 years of age and watched as they broke down and cried. "This is jail camp. They treat us worse than animals" said one of the youngsters. One of the boys had been there over six months. Imagine that. Think of your own son or daughter being imprisoned in this way for so long. When I challenged one of the government politicians, who attends this Assembly by the way, rather than discuss the disgraceful treatment being meted out to these children he began to dispute their ages, which tells you all you need to know about the current regime in Hungary. Indeed one of their officials made jokes about the final solution in a meeting with PACE delegates on the same day, whilst another proudly declared "if someone climbs over our fence we let the dog deal with that".

This is one aspect of the reality of life for migrant children in the EU today. Another reality is the thousands who never make it that far left to drown in the Mediterranean. All those condemned to confinement in the death camps on the Libyan coast, where they are deprived of daylight, food, water and medicine and subject to rape, torture and death. Camps funded by the European Union so that we don't have to deal with them coming to our shores.

We know it doesn't have to be that way. As part of the same PACE delegation I witnessed first-hand examples of very positive models of reception centres for unaccompanied minors in Vienna and also in Athens. The potential to build a humane system for dealing with migrant children is there. Working models are there. What is lacking is the political will to make it a reality. On behalf of the United European Left I fully endorse both of these reports and urge their adoption by this Assembly.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

10:49:59

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Thank you, Mr GAVAN.

And now for the FDG, Ulviyye AGHAYEVA from Azerbaijan, please.

The floor is yours.

Ms Ulviyye AGHAYEVA

Azerbaijan, FDG 

10:50:07

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Thank you, Mr President. Dear Colleagues. 

I want to thank and congratulate the rapporteurs for touching such a sensitive issue and for their excellent work.

As we all know starting from 2015, the European Union has experienced the largest influx of refugees and migrants into Europe since World War II. This in turn has exposed serious flaws in the European Union's asylum system. Along with migrant children that are travelling with their families there are a lot of children that risk everything including their lives in search of better life. The majority of them have travelled alone to Europe and separated from their family. They flee their homes just to escape war, armed conflict, persecution, human rights violations, abuse, extreme poverty. Despite the fact that majority of asylum-seeking children are boys, the situation for women and girls is worrying as they have been exposed to various forms of gender-based violence and other harmful practices.

And of course this sexual exploitation of children violates human dignity and undermines the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have to be mindful of the fact that those children separated from their families, they live with some kind of uncertainty about their future, they are deprived of liberty and of course all these facts undermine their psychological and physical well-being, thereby causing significant emotional distress and anxiety. As was mentioned earlier by my colleagues, we as parliamentarians should adopt a common strategy on how to combat violence against migrant children in all its forms, and ensure the broad and comprehensive protection of their human rights. Such strategies as building capacity and allocating adequate resources for the reception of migrant children, guaranteeing their protection and development by ensuring access to education, accommodation and health, investing in psychological and psychiatric support, appointing guardians for them as well as access to the programmes that would foster their long-term social inclusion are very important.

I believe that all these formal and non-formal activities are very positive step towards their integration into any society. Finally I'd like to stress out that children are our future, they are the next generation. I strongly hope that our holistic approach will change the current situation and contribute a lot to the improved safety of those children.

Tank you very much for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

10:52:48

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Thank you, Madam AGHAYEVA, Ulviyye.

For the EPP, and final contributor from political groups, the EPP, Stella KYRIAKIDES, from Cyprus, please.

The floor is yours.

Ms Stella KYRIAKIDES

Cyprus, EPP/CD 

10:52:59

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Thank you. Thank you, Mr President, dear colleagues

Ending violence against children is a priority in the UN Sustainable Goals and has been a priority in the different bodies of this organisation. The Parliamentary Assembly has organised campaigns, voted numerous resolutions and recommendations which to a greater or lesser degree have changed the lives of children and protected them from different types of violence. This is why these reports are so very important and I would like to congratulate the rapporteurs for a truly excellent work. We all know that violence takes many forms: it can be physical, sexual, it can be psychological. It can be a deprivation of access to education, to health. Any sort of violation of the Convention of the Human Rights of the Child.

The realities of today have created different groups of vulnerable children. We all know that disabled children, children in institutions, have always been at a high risk for violence. Today, the unprecedented migrant crisis has led to a new group of vulnerable children, migrant children, and we need to protect them. These children are at a high risk of exploitation, of trafficking, of multiple discrimination. Thousands have disappeared on reaching Europe with no trace and new policies of closing borders is leading to more suffering for children. 

If I may, I want to share with you the example of my country Cyprus to show how PACE's good work has helped change the lives of children, victims of sexual violence there. We have adopted a national strategy based on the Lanzarote Convention, which we ratified. We have changed our legal framework. We have opened the multidisciplinary house for the child and still more is happening. This is what the good work done here has achieved. And because over the last few months –I would say even in recent years– the negative news of what is happening in this institution seems to be taking all the publicity, I want to focus on the excellent work done in PACE in the area, for this day of violence against children.Thank all rapporteurs, all the Secretariat and all those colleagues who have helped change the lives of children. Sometimes we are not aware of what we do and how it actually does change lives and we need to continue our good work so that we can help children victims go from darkness to hope, to give them a voice, to bring them out of their silence, to stop living behind closed doors.

Because, dear colleagues, childhood should be carefree, should be about playing in the sun, not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul and the adoption of these reports today are testimony of our commitment.

Thank you again.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

10:56:02

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Thank you Ms KYRIAKIDES.

That concludes the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

The reporters may of course reply at the end of the debate.

But Baroness MASSEY, do you wish to respond at this stage?

No? Thank you.

In that case at the end of the debate you'll have four minutes left. 

Ms Rósa BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR do you wish to respond at this stage?

 

 

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

10:56:27

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Later? You have one minute left for the end of the debate.

Just before we move on to the general list could I remind members who have just joined us that the vote is in progress to elect a judge from Germany to the European Court of Human Rights.

At 12 noon the ballot will be suspended.

It will reopen at 3.30 and close again at 5 pm.

Those who haven't voted may still do so by going to the area behind the President's chair which is just back here.

So we now move on to the general list and Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ, please, from the EPP from France, you have the floor.

Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ

France, EPP/CD 

10:57:03

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Madam President,

Albert Einstein, emphasizing that “the word progress will have no meaning as long as there are unhappy children“ summarized what makes our debate on child abuse so important. The Council of Europe, through its One in Five campaign and its continued commitment to put children at the heart of the rights system, has made progress possible. However, it must be noted, through various facts and our experience as elected representatives, that even in the oldest democracies, this violence persists, sometimes as a result of social violence, but not always.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your work and your proposals, which you have proposed and which I support.

It is indeed essential to place all local authorities at the heart of the prevention system, as well as the protection of children. In France, the department seems to be the most appropriate level to coordinate the interventions of the various actors, as it manages child welfare. At the local level, it must be noted that residential areas and socially precarious areas often correspond to those of children at risk. The interest of the local level is that it also allows a differentiation of the consideration of local specificities. We cannot have the same approach in rural areas and in densely populated areas. The issues are necessarily different. Prevention requires policies that are culturally inclusive, sport-oriented, and that have a real knowledge of the field and a presence of the State through local actors, political or not.

However, in many countries, the decline in the resources made available to these local authorities often leads to a reduction in the prevention component, which should, however, be at the heart of the system. It is also clear that there is an evolution of the public related to the side effects of hospital and health policies. For example, it is quite common for child welfare actors to be confronted with young people with behavioural problems and young people with disabilities. In France, they now represent 20% of the young people concerned by social assistance, whereas they represent only 7% of the total population.

Another aspect that, for me, also requires local action is that of out-of-school children. I was particularly struck during my observation missions in Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia by the number of Roma children begging on the streets. Beyond the violence, often linked to these activities, the early school dropout of these children poses a real long-term problem for their inclusion in society.

Finally, as we know, new challenges will have to be met, linked to societal change: more and more precarious single-parent families, poverty and even unhealthy housing for children, the disappearance, sometimes, of administrations and therefore of the State in entire areas, leaving the most vulnerable populations to fend for themselves.

Thank you, Madam President.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:00:29

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Thank you, thank you Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ.

Mr Vernon COAKER, please, now, from the United Kingdom.

Mr Vernon COAKER

United Kingdom, SOC 

11:00:36

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Chairman, thank you very much.

Can I start by saying what brilliant reports these are? It's good to be in a session of the Council of Europe here discussing these reports, which we know will make such a difference. Overnight, many of you may have seen the horrific picture of the father with his young two-year-old daughter, who drowned trying to get across the border into the United States. And the terrible, harrowing picture, which made me cry, and I'm sure everyone else, of the little girl with her arm around her father. And I thought of how terrible that was and then I was reminded of the picture a few years ago of Alan Kurdi, the young child.

And then I realised that the importance of this, for all of us, is that we have these reports. And these reports are paper, and we are all fairly comfortable in these beautiful surroundings, in the beautiful city of Strasbourg. And I just say to each and every one of us, and I say hopefully through the opportunity of speaking in this chamber: Europe, let alone the world, needs to wake up. We pass resolution after resolution, year after year, saying that our children deserve better, that we can't have children in destitution in refugee camps, many unaccompanied, no idea how they've got there, bewildered.

If it were our own children or our own grandchildren, we would be going to the police and to the authorities, demanding that action was taken. Not in a year, but now. And all I can say is, surely we can do better. While we speak in this chamber - while I speak - yes, we've made progress but there are children living in destitution. Let's make this report a reality. Let's demand of our national parliaments, as well as the international organisations that we belong to, that more is done, and more is done more quickly.

These children cannot speak for themselves. They have no voice. We are their voice. We are the people who speak up for them. We are the people who have to bring about change. So I say to our rapporteurs, brilliant reports! Really, really moving. We heard it my own committee this morning moving reports but all of us, each and every one of us, let's demand our national parliaments wake up, our continent wakes up and let's do better for the children of the world and Europe. 

(APPLAUSE)

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:03:51

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Thank you Mr Vernon COAKER. The Chair is not expected nor should editorialise. But I think I'm probably on fairly safe ground in saying that not one of us could have failed to be moved by the picture that you described and that we saw published overnight. Mr Viorel Riceard BADEA please, from Romania.

Mr Viorel Riceard BADEA

Romania, EPP/CD 

11:04:14

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Dear colleagues,

I would first of all like to congratulate the rapporteurs on their initiative in drawing up these reports on the violation of the rights of children in its most serious forms, namely violence, abuse, exploitation and torture.

I am speaking as rapporteur for the Committee on Social Affairs, with regard to the impact of migration and work on children left without parents in their countries of origin.

Ladies and gentlemen, the protection of children's rights requires a very great deal of attention from responsible politicians, and from this point of view I would like once again to welcome the procedures undertaken in recent years by the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly as a whole to combat and prioritise violence against children.

The current Council of Europe strategy on the rights of the child, 2016-2021, which has as its main goal the protection of children from violence and at the same time, in implementing the 2030 agenda of the United Nations for sustainable development, is also proof of this.

In this approach, in order to defend children's rights, it is crucial that national parliaments, in their legislative function, engage both in the implementation and in the monitoring of objectives for sustainable development; in this case we are talking about objective 16.2, which refers to the fight against abuse and violence against children.

I fully agree with the proposal in the report to organise debates in national parliaments on measures taken to combat violence against children. During these debates, the effectiveness of the measures taken can be evaluated with the leading actors and solutions can be found for the remaining aspects, also following the relevant recommendations of the Assembly.

On the other hand, actions to prevent and combat violence against children involve ensuring that the budget is planned over a number of years and that sufficient funds are available to provide predictability for these actions and generate concrete results. However, the situation of migrant children, especially unaccompanied children, is extremely precarious and their status requires special protection, with appropriate measures on the part of the qualified institutions of the States in whose territories these children arrive. The detention of unaccompanied minors is a totally inadequate measure, with irreversible effects affecting their further development.

Children whose parents have gone to work abroad are also confronted with these effects, because the people they are left in charge of in their own country cannot replace their affection.

Once again, I would like to congratulate you on your excellent report. Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:07:37

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Thank you Mr Viorel Riceard BADEA.

Ms Sanja PAVIĆEVIĆ please, from Montenegro, you have the floor.

Ms Sanja PAVIĆEVIĆ

Montenegro, SOC 

11:07:43

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Thank you Chair.

Dear colleagues.

First of all I would like to thank the rapporteurs for the excellent job. I'm delighted to point out that Montenegro, both on the strategic and operative levels, is continuously undertaking measures aimed at creating an environment without violence for every child. An environment that has no abuse, intimidation, physical or any other type of degradation of the personality of a child.

The priority objectives in this area are translated into the Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children Against Violence 2017-2021, within which there are activities undertaken to improve the legislative institutional framework, the judicial system and social norms, as well as to create a monitoring and evaluation system. This strategic framework is based on a cross-sectoral approach. The activities are conceived and implemented through the cooperation of all sectors, both on the national and local community levels, which is crucial for achieving further progress in this area.

Cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination have also been strengthened through other significant activities such as the adoption of the protocol and actions, prevention of, and protection against domestic violence and violence against women and also the drafting of the guidelines for action by relevant institutions in cases of identification and dealing with child marriages and extramarital unions.

Recognising the significance of continuous education, numerous training courses were given to professional workers in the system of social and child protection on evolving forms of violence in different settings, and the vulnerability to violence of children in institutions and day care centres. The training of experts from the social services centres for public appearances in media on the topic of violence against children and similar. Innovative services were also introduced, such as the national helpline for parents and the national child SOS help line was also established.

Dear colleagues, Montenegro remains committed to achieving further progress in this area. Therefore, in the upcoming period it will continue with its activities on finalising relevant legislative frameworks for the networking of activities of certain bodies and further development of departments and services in this area. We will also continue through education to improve economic security in order to meet our primary obligations, which are to ensure that each child has a carefree and happy childhood.

Thank you for attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:10:39

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Thank you Ms Sanja PAVIĆEVIĆ.

I was informed that Ms Alexandra LOUIS was not going to speak but I noticed you are in your place. Do you wish to be called, Madame Alexandra LOUIS? No?

Okay thank you I just wanted to check.

Ms Nicole DURANTON s'il vous plait, from France

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, EPP/CD 

11:11:03

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Mr. President, Dear Colleagues,

The excellent report by our colleague Rosa Björk BRYNJOLFSDOTTIR has the great merit of reminding us, if there were any need, of the cruel situation of migrant children. In 2018, more than 110,000 refugees were children alone and without families.

Dangers to be faced first during their long journey, which pushes them to flee war and insecurity.

As UNICEF notes, migrant and refugee children and women are regularly subjected to sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention on their journeys to Europe.

As the UNICEF rapporteur points out, "this road is largely under the control of smugglers, traffickers and others who seek to attack desperate children and women simply seeking asylum or a better life".

Once they arrived in France and Europe, their trials were not over.

Let us acknowledge that the living conditions of minors in administrative detention centres, even if such detention is legal, and even if children are not separated from their families, can and must be improved. Too often, the material conditions of their detention are extremely summary.

In France –and in many other European countries, I believe– minors are nevertheless cared for within the framework of the child protection system, which does not require any nationality. And that is the whole point of the recognition of their minority: minors are not subject to the rules governing the residence of foreigners.

There is also no requirement for regular entry or stay, and they cannot be subject to a removal order, unlike families with children, who can be subject to it. According to the association France terre d'asile, the French particularity is to consider these young people as minors before considering them as migrants.

In this respect, let us be frank and acknowledge that we have, in terms of humanity in the reception, room for improvement. Let us also acknowledge, with the same clarity, that in recent years, migration phenomena have reached such high levels that our reception structures have been put under exceptional pressure.

It is up to us to design and implement ambitious and generous joint policies between host and departure countries to control migration flows. These policies must also be seen as one of the keys to improving the lot of migrant children, their integration, and a promise for the future.

Finally, at the earliest stage of migration, the international community must be involved in preventing and managing situations of violence and crisis.

Thank you very much.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:14:04

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Thank you Ms DURANTON.

Stefana MILADINOVIĆ please from Serbia.

Ms Stefana MILADINOVIĆ

Serbia, SOC 

11:14:10

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Thank you Mr Chair.

Dear colleagues, migration challenges for the Republic of Serbia from the beginning of the crisis are under the spotlight.

We are a transit country in the route. Through the different stages of the migrant crisis over a million people passed through our territory. From the very beginning of the migrant crisis Serbia has constantly improved the system of crisis response through the legal framework treatment mechanisms and securing the highest international standards in cooperation with all relevant international and also non-governmental organisations. This is particularly true for vulnerable groups among which we have identified unaccompanied children as the most sensitive group.

In all procedures Serbia follows the principle of the best interest of the child, and it implements, through continuous improvements, the acceleration of procedures. Acceptance, protection, foster placement, urgent appointment of guardianship, medical protection and education through inclusion in the system of our regular education with additional training of pedagogues and teachers.

At the same time we have tightened the penalties for illegal trafficking.

Dear colleagues, Serbia can serve as an example in providing assistance and accommodation for migrants. Especially for underage refugees and unaccompanied minors. I want to point out that we are proud of the treatment and the attitude of the Republic of Serbia towards refugees during the crisis, which is recognised in the international community. We are ready to share with you our practices, knowledge and useful experience. Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:15:50

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Thank you very much.

I can't see Alex DUNDEE in the chamber. Lord DUNDEE are you here? No?

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN please, from France.

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN

France, SOC 

11:16:06

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Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to welcome our two rapporteurs, whose commitment and investment I know to defend this cause.

Indeed, the fight against violence, against all forms of violence against children, must be an absolute political priority, as it conditions the future of our societies. Each attack on a child's physical or moral integrity will have an impact on his or her personal development and influence the behaviour he or she adopts in adult life, including with his or her own children. The responsibility of each of us is in fact engaged, we must be absolutely aware of this.

Earlier we had a joint hearing on the modern slave trade and slavery, and I would like to read you a testimony. A thirteen-year-old girl was entrusted to a compatriot living in France. For five years, she was in charge of all the household tasks in a house of nine people. Passport confiscated, kept in an irregular situation, without pay or leave, she sleeps without a blanket on a foam mattress, often beaten and deprived of food, her situation ends up attracting the attention of neighbours, who twice report her situation to the police. These are unacceptable facts that we must indeed denounce. Situations exposing children to serious threats have multiplied and evolved in recent years. The migration crisis, of course, during which many children found themselves left to fend for themselves and, therefore, to the traffickers.

The need to set up appropriate reception structures to prevent violence has been mentioned several times, ladies and gentlemen, but unfortunately I fear that we will experience other migratory crises, whether linked to wars or environmental phenomena, which will put children at risk.

We often refer to the lack of funding. I would like to pay tribute here to the associations that take care of children, because they deploy the few resources they have to make up for the lack of State funding.

In France they say "money is the nerve of war". Well, let us make it the nerve of peace and solidarity.

Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:19:09

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Thank you Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN.

Is Ms Maura HOPKINS here? I can't see her in her chair.

No?

In that case Ms Miren GORROTXATEGUI s'il vous plait.

Ms Miren GORROTXATEGI

Spain, UEL 

11:19:24

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Thank you, President.

Migrants are vulnerable, but migrant children are much more vulnerable so we need to step up protection measures for these minors. And this is the aim of this report, for which I would like to commend the rapporteurs, particularly as it aims to strengthen legislative measures to protect migrant children.

I would like to flag up one aspect of this report. Measures taken to establish how old a child is so that they can receive additional protection. Any system which aims to establish a child's age has its problems, any system you introduce is going to be problematic. So we as law makers need to bear this in mind and we need to make it clear in our parliaments that migrant children only have on way to determine their age and it is through the documents which they can get from their consulates, embassies abroad. That may seem obvious but transit countries such as Spain and other countries do not apply these principles as they should. Even when migrant children do have documents from their governments, which certify that they are children, in many transit countries they are submitted to medical investigations to establish whether they are children and mistakes are made. And this has a real impact on the protection of their rights. Any state receiving a migrant child, which has in its possession documents which confirm that he or she is a child should not have to undergo an age-assessment procedure. And I would like to ask the Assembly to relay this message to their parliaments. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:22:01

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Ms HAYRAPETYAN.

Ms Tatevik HAYRAPETYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD 

11:22:10

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Thank you.

Dear rapporteur, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all I want to acknowledge the enormous work done by the rapporteur.

While travelling from Yerevan to Strasbourg I was reading the autobiography of Waris Dirie, 'The Desert Flower'. I'm sure this book will be known to many of you.

Why do I say this?

Sometimes we think that the problems which don't directly affect us are so far from us.

However the more we read and explore the world, the more we understand that our contribution is crucial.

With this resolution we can make a small contribution to a big issue.

As you see I'm quite a young representative of Armenia's newly elected parliament.

I was a small child when the war in Karabakh broke out.

I was from far from the conflict zone, but because of isolation and closed borders, I was raised in a situation where having warm water or electricity was a big pleasure. I will keep silent about the absence of normal food.

But it's nothing if I compare the situation with my compatriots who were in the conflict zone, and who were raised under the bombs and in shelters.

We truly have gone through hell.

But I think our aim should not be only to speak about problems, but also to come up with proper solutions.

So I sincerely recognise the importance of this report.

Violence against children is unacceptable, but unfortunately still in the 21st century, we face such cases which we may watch in the news or read about in books. 

We need to take strong measures.

We need to not only ratify important conventions regarding the topic, but also to follow up their implementation.

So we need to vote for this resolution and do our best for its implementation.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:23:57

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Thank you. I don't see Mr TROY.

I, therefore, give the floor to Ms WONNER.

Ms Martine WONNER

France, ALDE 

11:24:09

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Thank you, Madam President,

Madam Rapporteur,

First of all, I would like to thank you, Madam Rapporteur, for your precise and high-quality work. You highlight a few aspects to which I would like to return. In your report, I believe two points are essential.

First of all, you recall the threats that migrant children face during their dangerous journey on the road to Europe. Thus, you do not fail to condemn the absence of policies and procedures limiting legal migration channels in Europe, which inevitably entails the risk that children travelling alone may find themselves in the hands of smugglers and traffickers. The reality of illegal markets and the sex trade must be taken into account and denounced in order to protect these children from the devastating effects on their physical, emotional and, above all, psychological development. Their psychological vulnerability is only the consequence of their traumatic migratory paths. Their lives are forever marked by unrest caused by the violence and exploitation they experience during their migration.

You highlight the need for the governments of the Member States of this Council to establish a common strategy to combat all the threats and violence that these children face on a daily basis. I can only agree with you on this proposal: full and extensive protection of their fundamental rights is necessary.

I would like to say a few more words, if I may, on the issue of persistent violations of the rights of these migrant children. A migrant child is a child. Therefore, he has all the rights related to his needs, taking into account his age. In France in 2018, in response to the increase in the number of unaccompanied minor migrants, the Defender of French Rights stressed in his opinions the need for an effective right of asylum and successful integration. He stressed the primacy of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the obligation to provide care for unaccompanied minor migrants.

I insist, the latter have unshakeable rights and must be able to build themselves like any other child, foreign or not. The fact that migrant children are exploited leads me, therefore, to believe that we are in agreement with the essential action of the Member States of this Council in taking legislative measures.

So I come to my conclusion. The Council of Europe is sensitive to everything that can affect fundamental human rights. Today, these children are no longer considered as beings, but too often as goods. Therefore, the Member States of this Council must put in place more policies to prevent any form of violence that undermines the values we stand for.

There is a real urgency.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:27:23

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Ms ÅBERG.

Ms Boriana ÅBERG

Sweden, EPP/CD 

11:27:28

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Madam President, dear colleagues,

I completely agree with the rapporteurs that ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all other forms of violence against children should be of the highest political priority.

All children have the right to safety and love. It is deeply deplorable that violence meted out to children by adults still exists.

Hitting a child is a betrayal. It is also a misuse of adult responsibility and physical advantage: the physical advantage that is there to protect our children but instead is used to hurt them.

When a child is beaten, the bruises occur on the skin and in the soul. Most children recover quickly from their injuries, but the scars in their souls last forever.

I would like to quote the famous author Astrid Lindgren, who in a speech titled Never Violence said:

“We all desire peace. Is there then no possibility to change ourselves fundamentally, before it is too late?

Can we learn to distance ourselves from violence?

Or simply put, try to become a new kind of human being?

But how could we go about that, and where should we start from?

I believe we need to start from the bottom. With the children.“

Sweden was the first country in the world to prohibit all forms of child corporal punishment in 1979.

This wasn´t done without any resistance, rather the opposite, there were many parents questioning how to raise their children without spanking them.

The law has had great impact in Sweden. In 40 years the general attitude towards corporal punishment has dramatically changed, from in the 60s being regarded as a means for parents to discipline their children, to an act that society strongly opposes.

We have come as far as we have thanks to the legislation, publicity and awareness campaigns.

Naturally, legislation is not enough; structures for its observance must also exist.

Speaking from my experience as an investigator of child protective services, I can say that we need better structures to detect abuse and protect children, but also to help parents to change their own behaviour.

Dear colleagues, it is violence that creates violators. I would like to encourage you to do everything in your power to ban all forms of child abuse in your own countries. It's our responsibility to create a world where the human rights of all children matter and are respected.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:30:50

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mr HAMMARBERG.

Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG

Sweden, SOC 

11:30:57

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Thank you Madam Chair.

Frankly I'm going home now with pride for being a Member of this Assembly, because this discussion is so well informed and so relevant in the daily lives of people in our home countries. The reports are really excellent and the discussion we are having now is one of the best I've heard in the Council of Europe, and I've been here, as you know, for some years, also for many of these discussions. I'm so happy about this discussion.

What you are doing is that you are building on the fact that all member states in this Assembly have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even though it is a UN Convention, we have brought it into our own acquis. That is something that creates a responsibility. What we are doing now is that we're taking one step further. We are not only satisfied with having promised to do certain things when it comes to the protection of the human rights of children. We are making concrete suggestions on how to proceed.

There we have something to tell, I think, all member states when it comes to further steps to be taken. When it comes to violence against children about half of the member states have now ensured that there is legislation in the country against violence against children. Even in their homes. Some have not not taken that step. I hope that would be possible very soon.

We also need to secure the ombudsman that we have. All Member states have now some kind of an ombudsman. They should give priority to the protection of children's rights. That is not always the case. There are things to be done of a concrete nature. When it comes to refugees we must avoid children being the victims of concerns about the migration crisis. It is absolutely important. The concrete recommendations being made here, for instance on age assessment, are crucial in this. We have to secure that no child refugee is put in detention. In some countries that still happens.

I see this as a discussion to take a further step, and I promise in my case to try to disseminate the report. In our country we need to perhaps translate the text, but disseminate these two reports because they are crucial. I'd really hope that the recommendations here will be adopted unanimously by this body.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:33:47

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Thank you very much.

I give the floor to Ms PASHAYEVA.

Ms Ganira PASHAYEVA

Azerbaijan, FDG 

11:33:54

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Thanks, Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues,

We must be seriously concerned that half of the children in the world suffer from violence every year and we must further strengthen our efforts to protect children more strongly and to combat violence against children. I congratulate the rapporteurs and support their proposals and call for special attention to some issues.

Violence against children is even more terrible in the regions where there are invasions and conflicts. And today I want to speak on behalf of the families of those children who have been killed and subjected to violence by Armenia. Tens of thousands of children have been displaced as a result of the occupation of 20% territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia. Tens of Azerbaijani children were killed by Armenian armed forces. Sixty-three children were killed during the genocide committed by Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly. Twenty-five children lost both parents. One hundred and thirty children lost one parent. Armenian armed forces continue their violence against Azerbaijani children. They killed nine-year-old Fariz Badalov, and thirteen-year-old girl Aygun Shahmaliyeva. In 2017, Zahra was killed and she was only two years old. I can continue this list but, unfortunately, time is short.

Those who committed these crimes have not yet responded to justice. If serious steps were taken by our organisation in connection with the violence that takes took place in time, maybe many children would be still among us today. Therefore, we call you to fight against all kinds of violence against children more seriously. These are double standards.

Dear friends, my country is seriously fighting against violence towards children. In line with the sustainable development goals, it is one of the main priorities of the State and effective cooperation is carried out with International organisations, including the UN and the Council of Europe, reports on human trafficking including violence against children are discussed in Parliament. Protection of children is strengthened in its legislation, cooperation with civil society organisations are worked on and expanding in this direction. Special attention is paid to the education and protection of IDP children. The ONE in FIVE Campaign, which the Council of Europe realised to combat violence against children, has been successfully implemented in our country. The national strategy for the prevention of child violence is implemented at a high level and the existing legislation is improved every year. The discussions were held on the subject "We say no to violence" in schools.

Despite all this, the focus of the State is on further work in this direction. We believe that today's discussions and the draft resolutions will contribute to the more effective fight against violence towards children in Member States.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:36:59

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Ms BOCCONE-PAGES.

Ms Brigitte BOCCONE-PAGES

Monaco, EPP/CD 

11:37:06

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Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, first of all, to commend the relevance of the reports that have just been presented, as well as the quality of the interventions of the various speakers who have just preceded me.

A single fragile being who suffers is already an injustice. What can we say about the worrying extent of the phenomenon of violence against children, thirty years after the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and even now that it has been ratified by almost all States?

Indeed, this violence unfortunately remains widespread and is carried out on victims who are often invisible and always too vulnerable to express themselves.

The adoption by the United Nations General Assembly, four years ago, of the Sustainable Development Programme 2030, gives us a glimpse of the prospect of accelerating the process initiated thirty years ago by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. For the first time, the dignity of children, and their right to live free from fear and violence, are enshrined as a priority in the International Development Agenda, with the creation of an objective –number 16.2– to eliminate all forms of violence against children by 2030.

Writing these elements into the texts is a significant step forward. How then can this ambitious objective be achieved? There is a need for coordinated and integrated policies that not only address the consequences of violence, but also address its direct or underlying causes.

To achieve this, all key change actors must be mobilized around this objective, particularly within civil society.

In this context, I would like to remind you that in Monaco AMADE Mondiale, an association dedicated to the protection of children and chaired by H.R.H. the Princess of Hanover and Princess Caroline of Monaco, has been active for decades.

AMADE Mondiale's mission is to protect the most vulnerable children from violence, exploitation and abuse and, as such, it undertakes many targeted actions throughout the world through various partnerships. In addition, I would like to point out that in our Parliament, which is associated every year with International Children's Day, we want to give this youth a voice. Thus, the majority plan to create a "National Youth Council" which will be in charge of formulating proposals each year concerning youth, or themes of general interest such as solidarity, culture and the environment.

Our struggle is difficult, but it is important to keep in mind that every child we save, every crime against a minor we prevent, is an adult we build.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:40:30

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mr VASCONCELOS.

Mr Héctor VASCONCELOS

Mexico 

11:40:41

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Thank you, Madam President. 

Today, I come to denounce before all of you, an international crisis which is unrolling in the global media. We find ourselves in a critical situation. Tens of thousands of migrants including many minors are affected by this crisis. The majority of them come from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and who are trying to reach the United States of America, transiting through Mexico. This is a human rights crisis and a crisis of fundamental rights. These migrants are trying to escape from conditions which threaten their lives. They are trying to escape to find minimum protection and access to jobs.

This is a complex phenomenon, which relates to the socio-economic conditions in the countries that these migrants are leaving. There is one aspect of this crisis, which I would like to underscore, which is unacceptable, and that is why I am here today to ask for assistance from Council of Europe member states. I would like to focus on the fate of the tens and millions of unaccompanied migrants who are part of this migrant caravan. Many of these children are aged just nine or ten. Some of them are younger. This is a dramatic situation, a dramatic aspect of the issue we are dealing with today. 

North of the border, we have migrants held in migrant detention centres. Tens of thousands of children are held in these migrant detention centres, separated from their parents. They have to sleep on the floors, they receive no medical care, they do not receive proper food. They cannot even wash themselves. Some of them have died. Some of them are in a critical health situation. The American authorities will not let them leave, the centres will not reunify them with their parents. Others have tried to cross the river which separates our two countries. The photo of this father and two-year-old daughter who had drowned, which was published in the media in recent days, will forever be engraved in our memories. It highlights the crisis which is unfolding. It is unacceptable that the country with the strongest economy in the world deals with children in this way, and doesn't provide the minimum level of care to them. I have come to you today to call upon the Council of Europe to step up its efforts to identify solutions, to speak out, stand up and fight against this tragedy to end the crisis. We would like to see you publish a declaration worded in the strongest terms.  

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:44:15

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mr AVETISYAN.

Mr Sos AVETISYAN

Armenia, SOC 

11:44:27

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Thank you very much.

I want to thank Baroness Doreen MASSEY for an excellent report. Such an honest and comprehensive report on such an important issue: children. We all love our children. Children don't have an ethnicity, but I don't like when they are weaponised in this hemicycle for cheap propaganda purposes.

But if that's the case, I want to mention that in 2016, when Azerbaijan was attacking Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the first victim was a child, Vaghinak Grigoryan, who was only nine years old.

Indiscriminate attacks on civilians is something that has been routinely practiced by the Azerbaijani state. The kindergartens are turning into castles, the walls are being built to protect the children from shelling.

This is something that I want to draw our attention towards.

If you google this you will find that there are people, teachers in Azerbaijan, who simply teach their students to hate Armenians. There is a very good video about that. I call the attention of Ukraine to look and monitor such things. The monitoring regimes for the ceasefire are being rejected by the Azerbaijani side for exactly this purpose.

When it comes to children and migrant children, I want to mention that my country hosted about 20 000 Syrian refugees to Armenia. The government has been doing everything to integrate them into the country, to give them training and social skills so they can be part of our society.

I want to stress this because - as a country which has survived through genocides, which has seen its children being wiped out - it is extremely important for Armenia to host and gather people. And it's about children.

I hope that in this chamber we will not ever again be weaponising children for political purposes. Children, we love them all - in Armenia, in Azerbaijan, in Georgia, in Ukraine, everywhere. Children should not be suffering in conflicts or be targets of military actions.

I think, on a constructive note, we should think about the ratification of the Lanzarote Convention, which is extremely important. My government is working towards that direction. Hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have this convention signed and ratified, and then the implementation and the monitoring will follow.

This is where we can cooperate. This is not the place to have the division lines.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:47:12

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Thank you.

I now give the floor to Ms HOPSU.

Ms Inka HOPSU

Finland, SOC 

11:47:20

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Madam President, dear colleagues,

Let me start by congratulating the two rapporteurs for their important and timely reports.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted 30 years ago. The Convention promises to take care of the child's right to life and security, regardless of the child’s parents' backgrounds. During these decades, the convention has brought a positive impact to the lives of many children and young people around the world.

Despite the positive development, we cannot close our eyes to the millions of children and young people who are still suffering from violence and abuse around the world.

The statistics are very sad:

According to Save the Children, one-fifth of children, about 420 million, are living in conflict zones.

Every year:

95,000 children, 70% of whom are boys, are murdered.

15 million teenage girls are forced into sex.

64 million children are left without primary school education.

In particular, disabled people, refugees and children living in extreme poverty suffer the most.

I will highlight one issue in particular.

Over 100 countries in the world are still detaining immigrants as part of their national immigration or asylum policy.

Many countries also detain families, including children or young people without a criminal charge or punishment. This is a blatant violation of the rights of the child.

As a human rights organisation, the Council of Europe and its member states should, as a matter of urgency, start complying with the United Nation’s Global Compact for Migration's outcome and prohibit the detention of immigrant children and families with children.

As asylum seekers, children and young people have fled violence, persecution and war. They may have already been traumatised for what they have been through in their home countries or during their challenging journey to Europe. In this sense, immigration detention does not help their psychological or physical well-being. It can actually make their condition even worse.

We in Finland, in the happiest country of the world, are also detaining immigrant families including children.

Moreover, last winter, UNICEF published research about the conditions of children asylum seekers in the Nordic countries. The conclusion of the research is not something to be really proud of. The research outcome can be summarised in one sentence: in Nordic countries “children are primarily seen as asylum seekers even though they should be seen as children in the first place”.

 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:50:18

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mr KAPUR.

Mr Mudassar KAPUR

Norway, EPP/CD 

11:50:27

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Thank you Madam Chair.

I thank the rapporteurs for bringing the topic of violence against refugee children to our agenda. It is a very important issue which is brought to light and that we are debating here today.

Violence against any child is violence against all children. If we tolerate the injustice happening to children who are strangers to us, our own children might be next. A debate like the one we are having today is a unique opportunity to come together as responsible politicians across borders and ideologies. At least I hope so.

This grave human rights issue is a mix of organised criminals taking advantage of innocent children, and what I would straight out call hate crime based on racism. The need for cross border police and policy cooperation is necessary. We also need to strengthen the work of NGOs in that respect.

However, the main focus for me today is what we do when the long journey is over, and it is time for the children to settle down and start a new life among us in our neighbourhoods.

These children have traumas and need professional help. In Norway, in my country, we have made sure that we bring schools, child protection authorities, health sector and integration authorities, and NGOs together on one platform so they can work and build cross-sector competence. None of them can work alone with such a diverse and difficult issue.

Finally, I look forward to the rest of the debate and the important work we have ahead of us. I hope that we can come together in order to share common experiences, share common ideas and work towards good solutions. In that respect, I welcome many of the measures in the resolution and recommendation we are covering here today. This report is an important chapter in an ongoing job and the struggle for the weakest among us.

The debate taking place today in this important chamber must also continue when we come back home in our own countries. I welcome all colleagues in this chamber to the cooperation ahead of us on this issue. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:53:16

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Ms LEYTE.

Ms Carmen LEYTE

Spain, EPP/CD 

11:53:26

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Thank you Madam President.

I would like to begin by congratulating the author of this report. And I would like to say to you thank you for raising this issue here, in the house of human rights.

We know it's a tragic and extremely difficult issue for the most vulnerable people in our world, children. All children in the worldshould be able to live in safety and security. They should be protected by their families and societies. They should receive education, healthcare, proper food so they can have the best possible living conditions. That's a dream, but a dream that is not made a reality.

We know that today it's very far from reality for many children, especially unaccompanied migrant children. The report describes how these children have to travel in atrocious conditions, risking their own lives. Sometimes being encouraged by their own parents to undertake these difficult and dangerous journeys. Why do they do that? Because they all share the same dream we do: our dream of a better life for our children and grandchildren. That's the dream shared by the children we see in our own streets today.

I recently in Madrid was able to meet with the speaker and even travel to Melilla, where we got firsthand information. Let me tell you about Melilla, just one example of many locations in southern Europe on the border and facing similar situations, with children who are held in centres and who find that they are living in dreadful conditions. We have thousands of children coming to some of these centres every day. I myself was able to visit one of these centres, La Purísima, in a border area in Melilla. In the centre I visited, I saw small boys, because small girls are held in a different centre. There are places there for 200 children, but there are over 600 living there. That obviously means children can't get the care they need. Yes, they are given food. Yes, they are given access to healthcare. Yes, they have psychological support and schooling and even vocational training. But they just don't have enough space. That in itself is a terrible problem for these children.

We can't look away from people like the little boy I met there. Therefore We all need to do more. The United Nations needs to do more to ensure that the rights of children upheld in the Convention on the Rights of the Child become a reality for our children. We need to look at our legislation, at our action plans. We need to meet the needs of children who migrate to Europe. They need to be given the kind of protection and opportunities they are looking for, since what we've done so far has fallen short of what we should be able to do. We need to allow these children to find their rightful place within our societies and protection systems. They have rights as children. We need to work for them. We also need to work with countries of origin in order to monitor and control illegal and irregular migration.

We need to invest significantly, working with countries of origin in order to bring all of this into some kind of control. We need to do this in the Council of Europe, as does the EU, as does our national parliaments. We need to work with people in countries of origin so that children can receive an education, don't leave their own homes, they don't leave their own countries, they don't leave their own societies.

We also need to create humanitarian corridors so that those who find that they are trapped in centres of the kind I've just been describing can get to other places. They need to be able to move to other parts of Europe within three months, or a decision made as to whether or not they are returned to their country of origin, preventing children from being held in the kind of conditions I've been describing. They need to get more personalised care. As things stand right now it's just not possible because we have these centres that are overwhelmed by huge numbers of children and don't have the conditions to deal with it.

Let us no longer close our eyes.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:57:33

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Thank you.

The last speaker this morning, Mrs RIZZOTTI.

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD 

11:57:38

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Thank you, President.

In recent years, the Italian Parliament has intervened on several occasions in the field of policies for the reception and integration of immigrants on the protection of unaccompanied foreign minors.

In 2017, a comprehensive law on foreign children was passed in Italy, which has greatly strengthened the protection against them. The problem is certainly not children, only 0.7% are under 6 and 5% are under 14 –children are immediately sent to family homes and psychologically assisted by the interpreter– but young people who say they are minors but it can be proven that they are perhaps even more than 20 years old.

By law they cannot have medical acts, if they are not consenting, such as the dental overview or the x-ray of the wrist to ascertain more or less their age. They have a legal guardian, usually the prefect or the quaestor; they have the psychologist, the interpreter, the cultural mediator and a doctor to persuade them to make the checks. Even if they do not accept –and this happens most of the time– they are still included in the protection system until they apply for a permanent residence permit, when they presumably reach the age of 18. In the meantime they have everything that Italian children have, obviously taking advantage of our school and health system, which, as you know is free in Italy.

The countries of origin are Egypt, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Mali. Only 100 children arrived from Afghanistan in 2017, compared to 1,100 from Nigeria.

93% are males, only 7% are females.

In 2015 there were about 8,500 unaccompanied minors in our country, and we got to 25,000 by 2017. More than 4,324 are unavailable, probably already brought to our country by human traffickers, in agreement with the organized crime.

From a survey I conducted in the Commission for the Protection of Children and Adolescents in the Senate it emerged that in the reception centres about 6 boys out of 10 after two days already had a mobile phone and new clothes, so there is a risk that they are already in the hands of the organised crime in our country. Children under the age of 18 who are used to sell drugs cannot be arrested. The females are undergoing prostitution.

For this reason, I believe that the European Union must intervene to ensure and give clear legislation to countries that alone must deal with all this and give minors real protection, safety and integration. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:00:41

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Thank you to you.

I am now interrupting the list of speakers and we will resume it this afternoon at 3.30 pm.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind you that the election for the second round of the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights for Germany will be suspended. Those of you who have not yet voted can do so immediately.

The election will reopen at 3:30 pm and close at 5 pm, so the election is now suspended.

The next meeting will be held this afternoon at 3.30 pm.

The meeting is adjourned.

I wish you a good appetite.

Next sitting at 3.30pm

The sitting was closed at 12.00