Children migrate from their countries of origin or residence for a variety of reasons, and often because of a combination of factors. They may be seeking safety, stability, asylum, decent income and living standards, freedom from discrimination, family reunification, economic or educational opportunities, amongst others, and often a combination of these. Some are trafficked. They may travel with family groups, with other adults or peers, or they may be unaccompanied. Some are separated from family members en route. Some undertake very perilous journeys while trying to reach the EU or move within it, and some die during their journey.
Regardless of a child’s reasons for being in migration, their situation or status (or that of their parents), they all have rights as children, first and foremost according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and in line with the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).
However, these rights are not always reflected in law, policy or practice. Children face discrimination in access to their rights as children, on the basis of their residence or migration status (or that of their parents). Depending on their situation, these children may have different statuses under different laws and measures, during the course of their migration (e.g. undocumented, trafficked, asylum seeking, unaccompanied or separated). Their entitlements and treatment are often governed by different laws or policies and depend on their status or are impacted by the implementation of far-reaching border control measures. This can lead to serious gaps in protection and enjoyment of rights.
Consequently, many actors, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and organisations contributing to the Initiative for Children in Migration, have been calling for a comprehensive and rights-based approach to all children in the context of international migration. The European Commission has also recently adopted a Communication addressing the protection of all children in migration.
This statement sets out our vision of what a comprehensive and rights-based approach to all children in migration actually means. When you think comprehensive, think “all”: all children, all aspects of their situation, all actions, all actors. When you think rights- based, think of obligations to children, not of discretionary welfare interventions.
The Initiative invites organisations working with children in migration to promote this vision and its recommendations.
Organisations are invited to sign the vision statement and make it visible on their own website as well as including it in their advocacy. The online platform of the Initiative will include either a list of organisations that have endorsed the statement or a general description of organisations who have endorsed it.
A wide range of child rights actors are calling on the EU, its Member States and stakeholders to ensure the rights of all children in migration are fulfilled. This involves putting in place a comprehensive rights-based approach which:
Children’s rights, in particular as set out in the CRC, apply equally to all children, without any discrimination on the basis of their migration, residence or citizenship status, as well as other grounds (age, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.). This means that:
All aspects of the situation of children in migration, at every stage of migration, should be addressed, in full respect of their rights.
This means that:
Children’s rights should be systematically considered and addressed across all the different laws and policies that affect them. Policy makers should take stock of how children in migration are affected by different policies and actions, and ensure that their rights are respected, protected, and as far as possible fulfilled.
Many different actors work with children in migration, including a range of public bodies and agencies, IGOs, NGOs, children and youth led organizations, professionals, private companies and the voluntary sector. Inter-agency and multidisciplinary approaches are critical to achieving effective responses to the situation of children.
EU and national measures need to properly involve all actors working with children at regional, national, local and municipal level. This means that the development and implementation of EU and national measures concerning children in migration should involve not only migration actors, but also child protection and welfare actors and children in migration themselves. The latter should have primary responsibility for the reception and care of children in migration, within the general national child protection system applying to all children in the State.
This vision sets out what we mean by a comprehensive and rights-based approach to all children in migration. When you think comprehensive, think “all”: all children, all aspects of their situation, all actions, all actors. When you think rights- based, think of obligations to children, not of discretionary welfare interventions.