In advance of the EU Ministers meeting on Monday 14 September, Eurochild, a network of children’s rights organisations with over 180 members across 35 European countries, calls on EU governments to adopt a shared response to the refugee crisis based on the European values of solidarity and human rights. EU governments cannot afford to waste more time and threaten more lives. Instead, they should offer swift humanitarian assistance to those at Europe’s borders and safe routes for all seeking refuge.
Children, whether separated or with their families, deserve priority attention. Over 100,000 children have fled from conflict and persecution in the first half of 2015, according to UNICEF. Every person under 18 years arriving in Europe must be considered first and foremost a child, with equal rights, regardless of origin, race, religion, ability, migration status. These rights include access to healthcare, education, play, care and support, protection from violence and abuse.
European coordination crucial to support civil society
Voluntary, civil society and citizens’ initiatives are filling the gap to support new arrivals. It is critical that government authorities at EU and national levels fulfill their international obligations to human rights treaties by coordinating a comprehensive humanitarian response which also takes account of mid- and long-term goals of integration.
From Finland to Greece, Ireland to Serbia, our members are offering support and services to refugee and migrant children. While some are offering immediate, humanitarian aid, others are involved in training professionals who come into contact with children, or supporting integration, with classes in the local language. Others are working with local authorities to run group homes for children, ensuring children are cared for, as far as is possible, within the family or placed in family-like alternatives like foster care. These resources and expertise can be pooled and shared across Europe. EU authorities are best placed to play a coordination role.
Civil society efforts to protect the rights of all children, need support from EU and national governments. Without appropriate financial and human resources, children’s development, especially those who have escaped conflict and maybe separated from their families, will be compromised with long-term implications not only for their future, but also for the future of society as a whole.
Existing integrated child protection systems must be reinforced to cope with new demands, particularly to help children deal with the trauma they may have experienced. Governments must avoid at all costs the institutionalisation of children. Even if perceived as a short-term response, they leave a lasting legacy and are ill-equipped to respond to children’s individualised needs. It is important that existing education, healthcare, counselling and welfare services are supported to extend their reach to new arrivals.
People across Europe, including those who have taken difficult journeys to escape conflict and persecution, are looking to the EU for leadership. The humane treatment of refugees is an expression of the fundamental values on which the European Union is built. As civil society promoting the rights and well-being of children, we expect our leaders to rise to the occasion.
Eurochild advocates for children’s rights and well-being to be at the heart of policymaking. We are a network of organisations working with and for children throughout Europe, striving for a society that respects the rights of children. We influence policies, build internal capacities, facilitate mutual learning and exchange practice and research. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the foundation of all our work. www.eurochild.org
For more information, please contact:
Prerna Humpal, Head of Communications, Eurochild
This mailing has been produced with the financial support of the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) 2014-2020. The views expressed by Eurochild do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission
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