It is fundamental to ensure that any child needing protection receives it and that, regardless of their immigration status, citizenship or background, all children are treated as children first and foremost.
According to UNICEF
- there are 50 million children in migration worldwide - 28 million have fled violence and insecurity
- one in 200 children is a refugee
- one in three children living outside country of birth is a refugee
- children constitute half the refugee population
- one in eight migrants is a child
- Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide
- there are 5.4 million child migrants in Europe (about 7% of region's migrants)
- in 2015, 31% of refugees who arrived in the EU by sea were children
- the proportion of children (unaccompanied and accompanied) among sea arrivals in Greece in early 2016 was as high as 40%
- 1 in 4 asylum applicants in the EU in 2015 was a child
- 96,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU in 2015.
Children in migration are continuously exposed to risks such as violence (including in reception/transit centres), physical abuse, exploitation, sexual abuse and trafficking for the purpose of sexual or other exploitation, going missing or becoming separated from their families. Children have arrived in Europe with obvious signs of injury, trauma, and physical, sexual and psychological abuse incurred on their journey to and in Europe.
The House of Lords report on unaccompanied children in the EU from July 2016 lists some of the challenges unaccompanied children face
- danger while entering the EU irregularly
- lack of protection while following EU migration routes undetected
- lack of safe reception, reception capacity, proper reception conditions, inspection and monitoring
- measures to prevent movement to their preferred country of destination
- procedural and other obstacles to family reunification
- the risk of administrative detention, including in inappropriate conditions (such as a lack of separation from adults)
- vulnerability to sexual violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking
- lack of reliable information and advice, including information about trafficking
- lack of legal advice and support
- use of invasive methods to assess age, with variable results and reliability
EU action on children in migration
Authorities working on asylum and migration and those working on child protection need to cooperate more closely. To this end, the European Commission has proposed 10 principles for integrated child protection systems, which provide a framework for the protection of children in migration.
On 10 February 2016, the Commission adopted a communication on the state of play of the implementation of the European agenda on migration, setting out a comprehensive approach for the protection of children throughout the migration chain. Annex 6 provides an overview of ongoing actions to protect children in migration.
On 4 May and 13 July 2016, the Commission published proposals to reform the Common European Asylum System.
The tenth European forum on the rights of the child on 29-30 November 2016 was dedicated to the protection of children in migration.
On 12 April 2017, the Commission adopted a Communication on the protection of children in migration. It sets out actions to reinforce the protection of all migrant children at all stages of the process. The progress on the implementation of the actions in the Communication by the Commission and EU Agencies as well as by Member States is regularly monitored (see the document below).
Database of promising practices
As stated on multiple occasions at the 10th European Forum on the rights of the child on the protection of children in migration in November 2016 and in the 12 April 2017 Commission Communication on the protection of children in migration, there is a wealth of knowledge and good practice in the Member States on the protection of children in migration, which needs to be shared at local and national level. The Commission committed to collect and disseminate good practice on the protection of children in migration via an online database.
Relevant funding for children in migration
- Rights, equality and citizenship programme 2016: direct grant relating to the protection of children in migration
- DG JUST funding opportunities on the rights of the child and violence against children (Rights, Eguality and Citizenship programme)
- DG HOME: Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF)
- DG ECHO funding opportunities
- DG DEVCO funding opportunities
- European Social Fund (ESF)
- Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)
Council Conclusions on the protection of children in migration– June 2017
Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece and Italy (as of April 2019)
Member States reports on implementation of the 12 April Communication – (English, updated as at 12 January 2018). Note: Survey responses by Member States are published as submitted. The Commission cannot be held responsible for the inaccuracy or otherwise of information contained therein.
Report: Children in crisis - unaccompanied migrant children in the EU - House of Lords English (1.4 MB - PDF)
Document: 10 principles for integrated child protection systems English (112 KB - PDF)
EC Communication: State of play of the implementation of the European agenda on migration - February 2016 English (172.4 KB - PDF)
EC Communication: State of play of the implementation of the European agenda on migration – Annex 6 English (176.5 KB - PDF)
Child-specific provisions in the Common European Asylum Package English (445.6 KB - PDF)