The European Commission presented earlier this autumn, on 23 September, the New Pact for Migration and Asylum, a document long awaited by all parties involved in the management of migration processes in Europe, which also includes aspects of child protection in migration.
With this document, the Commission aims to “structure a framework that ensures a fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity between Member States and at the same time guarantees certainty for all individuals seeking international protection in Europe”.*
Two macro areas of action are therefore outlined:
– The efficiency of the system of border control and verification procedures, which can speed up waiting times and guarantee respect for human rights, through an independent monitoring mechanism;
– A distribution of the famous quotas of migrants among the Member States, organized however through three different options, which States have the freedom to choose. Each State would then have an allocated quota of migrants; however, it can decide whether to receive the migrants, sponsor the return, giving the necessary economic resources for such return to the country of first arrival, or support to third countries for the management outside the EU borders of migrants, or of those being returned.
With regard to the specific issue of the protection of minors and unaccompanied or separated migrant children, there are certainly aspects of attention:
- widened the definition of family giving the possibility of reunification also between siblings;
- the right to remain in a Member State where a diploma has been obtained is guaranteed,
- more emphasis and attention is given to the respect of the principle of the best interest of the child,
- access to education systems without discrimination,
- as well as respect for the right of the child to be heard during the entry procedures, and
- the commitment to implement alternatives to detention for children and their families.
However, the decision to exclude only UASC and children under the age of 12 from border procedures was of particular concern, thus reducing protection for all children aged 12 to 18 years. In fact, it should be remembered that border procedures very often provide for detention.
This rule, together with the rule providing for the possibility to detain children and UASC for national security reasons, contrasts with international and regional standards that consider such detention practices as a violation of children’s rights.**
Civil Society has reacted with a certain degree of critics to the document, underling the failure to overcome the Dublin mechanism and a structure that risks to not guaranteeing the respect of migrants’ rights. Nonetheless, also the political parties in the European Parliament, as well as the Member States have expressed their doubts about the proposal. On the one hand those who define it as still not very brave in imposing a principle of solidarity between states, on the other hand those who want at all costs to elude the management of migrants and do not like this new optional mechanism either.
The reactions once again shade the light on the different political positions Member States reiterate on the migration .topic. The hope is that European Institutions will start from this proposal and will try to find the right compromise among States without failing to protect migrants’ human rights.
Here you can download the fact-sheet with summary information on the new pact for migration and asylum, or the full text is available here.
* New Pact on Migration and Asylum factsheet European Commission