EU migration and asylum deal must uphold our collective responsibility to protect children

Statement by Regina De Dominicis, Regional Director for UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe

09 April 2024

GENEVA, 9 April 2024 – “UNICEF welcomes the efforts by EU Member States to work towards a more predictable system for managing migration. As they move toward a final agreement on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, UNICEF calls for the principles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to be upheld.

“If the implementation of policies outlined in the Pact are grounded in child rights and EU and international law, there is an opportunity to ensure a comprehensive, well-managed approach to supporting children arriving in Europe to seek asylum, safety and better opportunities.

"To prevent the erosion of children’s rights, clarity and transparency is needed on the implementation of the Pact provisions and the potential impact on children. For example, the criteria under which unaccompanied children are assessed as security risks and thereby subjected to the border procedure needs to be clearly and narrowly defined in order to prevent arbitrary exclusion. Similarly, clarity is needed on the proposed provision enabling Member States to use ‘a proportionate degree of coercion’ against children to ensure their compliance in giving biometric data. In its current wording, the provision could put children at risk of violence and harm.

“UNICEF is committed to working with EU Member States to ensure that the implementation of the Pact serves the best interests of children. Including how to ensure movement restrictions do not amount to children being detained in immigration centres during screening, border, asylum or return procedures. Immigration detention of children – even if for a short time - has detrimental effects on children’s health, development and wellbeing.

“We look forward to supporting EU Member States as they invest in alternatives to detention and put forward child-friendly procedures that ensure children have full access to their rights throughout. This includes investing in family-based care and social workers who can provide specialised care and support for children and families.   

“Member States should support independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure that children and their family’s rights are upheld in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties at all stages of migration and asylum procedures and that redress is offered when violations occur.

“Half of all children arriving in Europe to seek safety and asylum have been driven from their home countries by conflict and war, meaning that their childhoods have already been marred by horror. It is our collective responsibility and legal obligation to ensure their best interests are upheld.”

Media contacts

Georgina Diallo
UNICEF Europe and Central Asia
Tel: +41 76 320 68 14


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