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24th Feb 2024

EU must do more to protect child migrants, NGOs say

The EU and member states aren't doing enough to safeguard the interests of child migrants, 78 human rights groups have said.

The activists, meeting in Brussels for the European Forum on the Rights of the Child on 29 and 30 November, said in a joint statement that children have their rights breached constantly.

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The campaigners pointed out that one in four asylum seekers in the EU is a minor, and more than 700 children are estimated to have drowned when trying to reach Europe this year alone. Last week a six-year-old died in a fire at the EU so-called hotspot camp in Moria, Greece.

Lengthy bureaucratic processes keep children out of school for months, the NGOs said. Many wait for more than a year before being reunited with family members in another country.

They said children are regularly locked up to prevent them from going missing. But thousands have nonetheless disappeared during their asylum process.

"Many of these children will one day become EU citizens. We need to invest in them and encourage them to become active participants in our societies. The EU and member states can do a lot more," the organisations, which include UNHCR, UNICEF and Save the Children, said.

The groups are urging states to adopt an EU action plan strengthening safeguards for children in the asylum legislation, and set aside more money for national child protection schemes and new mechanisms to protect children across borders.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos was clear that child protection needed to be at the heart of EU asylum and migration law.

"Even if we succeed in all areas of our migration policy, if we don't succeed in protecting children, we have not succeeded at all," he said on Tuesday.

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Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

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