On 2 May 2018, the European Parliament adopted a new resolution to protect migrant children arriving in the EU. The resolution calls for all member states to safeguard the rights and interests of children taking into consideration the unique challenges faced by child refugees and asylum seekers, such as vulnerability to exploitation, violence and sexual abuse.
31% of the 650,000 asylum seekers in 2017 were minors. Among these, 13% of minors were unaccompanied. Going beyond mere numbers, it is necessary to consider all the children with different migration status. Numbers are high, but, as the communication of the European Commission released in April 2017 states, “Reception conditions for children in migration include not only safe and appropriate accommodation, but also any necessary support services to secure the child's best interests and wellbeing, such as independent representation, as well as access to education, healthcare, psychosocial support, leisure and integration-related measure”, in accordance with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The resolution adopted by the European Parliament highlights that all children are entitled to all the rights enshrined in the UN Convention, regardless of their migrant status. It sets out a number of policy areas for action by member states, including:
- allocating adequate funding and support to local and regional authorities, and make use of European sources such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF),
- providing access to education, accommodation and healthcare,
- ensuring that unaccompanied children be accommodated separately to adults, for safety,
- urgently investing in psychological and psychiatric support for child migrants,
- speeding up procedures for appointing guardians or temporary guardians for unaccompanied children,
- ensuring that children have access to child protection officers at border crossing arrival points,
- accommodating all children and families with children in non-custodial, community-based settings while their application is reviewed,
- ensuring that children are provided with information about their rights in a child-friendly and gender sensitive way.
In the process of children integration, cities play a key pivotal role, especially with regards to accommodation and education. In fact, in most EU countries, cities have the responsibility and competence to make arrangements for enrolment to compulsory education, namely from early childcare to high-school. Despite increased efforts from cities,the integration of migrant children into the mainstream education system remains a crucial challenge, as shown by the report of EUROCITIES Cities’ actions for the education of refugees and asylum seekers, published in January 2017. Evidence shows that cities lack sufficient funding, well-trained staff, the capacity of expanding services and facilities for growing demand, avoiding segregation and discrimination practices as well as dealing with psychological traumas and specific health issues.
EUROCITIES welcomes the resolution adopted by the European Parliament and especially the call for allocating adequate funding and support to local authorities from EU funds like the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Cities’ actions to protect the rights of migrant children and integrate them into education and society should be further strengthened by making adequate support available and accessible through the upcoming ESF+ and AMF funding programmes for 2021-2027.
Read the resolution of the European Parliament here.