The European Parliament adopted a resolution this week calling on the EU Commission to propose strategic guidelines in the form of common minimum standards for the protection of unaccompanied children arriving on EU territory until durable solutions have been found for them.

The guidelines should enshrine fundamental principles such as safeguarding the best interests of the child, as well as the necessity of undertaking proper age assessment, the appointment of legal guardianship for unaccompanied children, the fulfilment of certain conditions before returning unaccompanied children to their countries of origin, and effective access to proper accommodation, education, health and legal assistance to the same extent as children in their host countries of asylum.

In the resolution, the MEPs highlighted their regret that the recast Reception Conditions Directive does not prohibit the use of detention in case of unaccompanied asylum seeking children and call on EU countries never to place a child in detention and to exempt unaccompanied children from accelerated asylum procedures.

Furthermore, the MEPs urge Member States to respect the ruling in M.A. and Others, in which the Court of Justice of the European Union established that where an unaccompanied child made an asylum claim in more than one EU Member State, without having family members present on EU territory, the Member State, in which they are present after having lodged an application, will become the state responsible to process their asylum application.

MEP Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE, FR), Rapporteur of the motion for a resolution said during the plenary discussions, that unaccompanied children’s rights “are not always respected in EU member states, too often they are dealt with as adult irregular migrants and their vulnerabilities, specific needs and rights are not taken into account.” She continued by reminding Member States of the fact that “most of them are fleeing their countries to escape from war, violence, prosecution, poverty and natural disasters. They may also be victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. These children by nature are vulnerable and it is our duty to do more for them”.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 September 2013.

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