EU member states lack guidance on protecting migrant children separated from parents

EU member states lack guidance on protecting migrant children separated from parents

Efforts to protect migrant children who are separated from their parents but travelling with other adults are hampered by a lack of information and guidance, an EU report has found.

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said in its latest report on migration-related fundamental rights in select EU states that there was a lack of information and specific guidance on how to protect these children from potential exploitation and abuse.

It also identifies what needs to be done to address the shortcomings in existing approaches and points to promising practices that could be used by other member states.

Some of the report’s main findings include:

  • Member States do not collect data on separated children; when they are registered, they are generally classed as unaccompanied children without their specific needs being catered to.
  • Guidance on how to handle separated children is also lacking, resulting in different approaches in different regions, cities or even reception centres.
  • Separated children also tend not to be informed about asylum procedures, the possibility of applying for asylum independently from the accompanying adult, and the consequences of different choices.
  • They are often housed with the accompanying adult before their relationship is assessed. This places the child at risk of abuse.
  • There are considerable difficulties establishing the relationship between the child and accompanying adult. This can be due to the lack of official documentation or the high cost of DNA testing. Sometimes the accompanying adult becomes responsible for the child without assessing whether the person is capable and willing to take care of the child.
  • The approaches to migrant children married abroad varies. Most Member States recognise, under certain conditions, marriages which occurred outside the EU. Even though the child may be a victim of forced marriage, child protection authorities are rarely consulted.
  • Migration authorities mainly decide on family reunification transfers.
  • When it comes to the monitoring of reception facilities where children are housed, there is often a lack of coordination and clarity about who is ultimately responsible.
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