ECRE’s work on the rights of refugee children

ECRE has developed extensive expertise in the situation of refugee children (including the unaccompanied). Recently, the need to ensure that children’s rights are guaranteed within the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) has become more important due to the dramatic increase in (unaccompanied) children, arriving on European territory, many of whom are in need of international protection.

ECRE maintains that refugee children have full rights both as children and as refugees and that the best interests of the child should always prevail. Asylum seeking children, should first and foremost, be considered as children, before being considered as asylum seekers, and thus should also benefit from the rights enshrined in the UNCRC. They have the same needs for care, education and special consideration as other children, in addition to their specific needs and rights as asylum seekers or refugees.

Currently, ECRE delivers its work primarily through projects:

From November 2016 ECRE led the project ‘UPHOLDING LEGAL RIGHTS FOR UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN: Fostering Quality Legal Assistance in the Asylum Procedure’.

The project was co- funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.

The UPRIGHTS project concluded in January 2019.

The final seminar took place in Brussels. Please see the agenda.

Policy recommendations developed by the partners and discussed at the seminar are available here.

The training material prepared by the project is available for free from the Council of Europe HELP website. HELP stands for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals and is the go-to site for training material on human rights issues.

The training materials produced by the project are also available for download at the links below:

Training Manual
Module 1 – Key Concepts and Guiding Principles
Module 2 – Fundamental Procedural Rights
Module 3 – The Rights to Family Reunification
Module 4 – Access to International Human Rights Mechanisms
Module 5 – Ensuring a Child Friendly Approach

The aims of the project were:

  • To ensure that unaccompanied children in need of protection have full access to this protection and
  • To support them to participate in decision-making at all stages of the asylum process.

The project will build the capacity of legal practitioners and other professionals to improve their knowledge of children’s rights and the principles laid down in international and EU legal instruments and improve their contribution to implementation of these rights and principles.

Promotion of a comprehensive child rights approach through the project partnership entitled ‘Putting migrant children’s rights at the heart of the EU Agenda’.

The project will align migration/asylum and child protection advocacy actors from European and national levels around shared policy recommendations and advocacy opportunities on:

  • The goals and implementation of a comprehensive EU policy on children in migration, enhancing respect of all children in migration and ensuring that child protection plays a central role in EU responses, alongside asylum and immigration
  • Identified issues of concern to migrant children to be addressed by EU and national policies.

Other activities:

ECRE members across Europe are directly involved in assisting unaccompanied children, either through (legal) counselling, guardianship or by facilitating family tracing (ECRE’s membership includes many national red Cross societies).

ECRE managed the “No Longer Alone” project that focused on five different reception models for children in EU Member States assessing good practice and sharing knowledge amongst key stakeholders.

The rights of refugee children (including the unaccompanied) have been addressed in ECRE comments on the recast legislation that makes up the CEAS as well as in different projects carried out by ECRE. For example, ECRE has monitored the application of the Dublin Regulation including the situation for children, in particular through the Dublin Transnational Network project and the publication of the Dublin II Regulation-Lives on Hold report. In addition, AIDA provides detailed information on legal frameworks, policies and practices affecting children in the asylum process, be they related to reception conditions, integration or procedural matters. On the following selected areas of particular interest to policymakers, practitioners and researchers dealing with children’s rights, country-specific information may be found in the Country Reports, as well as comparative publications.

From 2012 to 2014, ECRE coordinated a project on quality legal assistance for unaccompanied children “Right to Justice: Quality Legal Assistance for Unaccompanied Children”.

In 2010-2011, ECRE coordinated a study for DG Home on the return of children which looked at the practice around forced and voluntary return of families and unaccompanied children.

ECRE Publications on children

No Longer Alone project

Further Information:
House of Lords Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU, July 2016
NIDOS project: Alternative Family Care October 2015 to April 2017
EPIM, workshop conclusions Lost in Migration conference, January 2017
European Commission: Communication on the protection on children in migration, April 2017
Initiative For Child Rights In The Global Compacts: Child Rights In The Global Compacts, June 2017
A joint UNICEF-IRC-UNHCR Paper “The Way Forward to strengthened Policies and Practices for UASC in Europe” July 2017
Council of Europe, Age assessment: CoE member states’ policies procedures and practices respectul of children’s rights, September 2017
Scep, ‘Statement of good practice’, October 2017
OHCHR, Children must be top of global migration agenda, UN experts say, November 2017
SOS Children’s Villages International, Let Children be Children: November 2017
Ana Fontal, SOS Children’s Villages International: Let children be children – a moral obligation and an investment in our future, December 2017
UNICEF report, Protected on Paper? Asylum-seeking children in Nordic countries face significant gaps in protection and access to service, March 2018
JOINT NGO STATEMENT: “8 Ways to make the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework a vehicle for protection and integration of children in migration”, April 2018
ECRE, Rights of refugee children: Overview of developments in 2017, May 2018
J. M. Pobjoy, “The best interests of the child principle as an independent source of protection” (2015) 64(2) International Comparative Law Quarterly 327
Network For Children’s Rights, ‘the Children That Don’t Go On Holiday’, Greece, July 2018