UNICEF deeply concerned about instrumentalization and pushbacks of children on Europe’s borders

In 2021, children have been repeatedly caught in the midst of political and border management disputes on the EU’s external borders. These developments call for a renewed commitment to the protection, safe-guarding, and best interests of children.

09 November 2021

Statement by Afshan Khan, Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe


GENEVA, 9 November 2021 – “I am deeply concerned about the dire situation facing migrant and asylum-seeking children in Europe and at its borders.”

“Reports of children living in appalling conditions, being pushed back or detained at the eastern borders are shocking and a direct violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children and their families have the right to seek asylum and have their protection needs evaluated on an individual basis.” 

“UNICEF recognizes member states’ sovereignty, the challenge posed by irregular migration and the need for border management processes that are safe and orderly, while upholding human and children’s rights. We join our UN sister agencies at UNHCR, IOM and OHCHR in condemning the use of pushbacks, wherever they occur, as they violate international law and put children’s lives at risk without considering their best interest or the risks they may face upon return.”

“There is a need for a renewed collective political commitment for the protection and safeguarding of all children in Europe—regardless of their migration status. Migrant children should not be instrumentalized for political purposes and their right to safely claim asylum must be guaranteed.”

UNICEF stands ready to work with governments across EU, Eastern Europe and Western Balkans, UN organizations and civil society to provide urgent humanitarian support, protection and child-friendly accommodation for all children in need at international borders, and calls for the urgent adoption of immigration reform measures that uphold children’s rights in countries of origin, transit and destination.”

“Together, we can – and we must – ensure the rights of all children are understood, protected, and promoted everywhere. A child is a child. No matter the circumstances.”

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Giovanni Zambello
Tel: +41 79 238 84 29


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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