Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Children's rights at risk in EU hotspots

  • An Iraqi child on Kos island, Greece, in August 2015. EU hotspots "have become a bottleneck when it comes to accessing international protection," the FRA said. (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

The EU is falling short of ensuring basic rights of children in its "hotspot" migrant camps in Greece and Italy, a new report by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has said.

"The situation of children is a general concern in the hotspots; the one of unaccompanied children is a particularly burning one,” said Michal Nespor, an FRA official who presented the findings to the European Parliament's civic liberties committee on Thursday (8 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The FRA is an EU watchdog agency in Vienna.

The hotspots were meant to facilitate EU assistance to Greece and Italy by concentrating asylum procedures and EU support in specific locations. But the idea is not working in practice, Nespor said. Lack of lawyers and other staff has caused logjams on asylum claims.

"The hotspots have in some respect become a bottleneck when it comes to accessing international protection," the FRA official said.

He said children had the right to be put first in line when the authorities handled asylum cases.

But since the EU-Turkey deal entered into force, in March 2016, the role of hotspots changed focus from "registration and screening before swift transfer to the mainland [to] implementing returns to Turkey”, the FRA report said, quoting the European Commission.

Syrian nationals were being processed first, “in order to decide on their admissibility [to the asylum procedure] or their potential return to Turkey in light of the EU-Turkey statement”, Nespor said. Pakistanis, who have small chances of being granted asylum, have also been made a priority.

Other groups had to wait for months to have their claims processed, overcrowding camps as a result.

That also had consequences for the rights of children, Nespor said, who hadn't been able to unite with their families. Most seriously, the long waiting periods causes tensions, and contributed to some extent to violence in the hotspots.

"We have all heard of rapes of unaccompanied children," the FRA official said.

Some hotspot authorities tried to protect children from violence and stop them from going missing via "protective custody", which made the hotspots into de facto detention camps.

Nespor said many children say they are older than they really are to avoid being locked up and separated from their families.

"They are aware that in the current situation being a child is a limitation, rather than a benefit," Nespor said.

"While hotspots can in the future serve as a model for managing new arrivals in a fundamental rights compliant manner, some of the persisting gaps which are there at the moment and they need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The EU has a responsibility for managing the hotspots," he said.

Also on Thursday, the European Commission published a plan to reduce the number of people stuck on the Greek islands, which includes sending more EU officials and interpreters to deal with the backlog of applications.

This article was independently created by EUobserver's editorial staff and is part of a series about unaccompanied migrant children. Costs for producing this article was funded in part by the Destination Unknown initiative.

Report: EU failing migrant children

Just under 90,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU last year, up from around 13,000 in 2013. A UK report said many were treated with "suspicion and disbelief" by authorities.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us