EU: Migrant children should be treated first and foremost as children, regardless of their status

Unaccompanied migrant children should have access to the same mainstream child-care system as national children, said experts during a workshops held by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and partners.

During a transnational workshop in which they exchanged experiences and good practices on alternatives to detention, experts also said that it is never in the best interests of the child to be placed in immigration detention.

Case management is the human rights compliant alternative to detention of migrant children, and should be complemented by access to quality legal assistance, interpretation and cultural mediation, they agreed.

Experts and practitioners from a number of EU countries and international experts explored good practices of alternatives to detention, in particular case management and placement of migrant children in mainstream child protection systems. Participants discussed the role of a case manager and state authorities, the importance of cultural mediators in creating a safe space for the child upon arrival, as well as the best way to screen for age assessment. They also shared specific examples of alternatives to detention that can comply with human rights obligations, in Poland, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Greece and other countries.

Participants acknowledged that, in order to ensure that appropriate alternative to detention is applied, a holistic age-assessment should not be done immediately at the border as children should be given the time to build trust with the authorities as they get access to mental and physical help that enables them to recover from their journey. In case the children cannot prove their minority, they should be given the benefit of the doubt in accordance with the principle of the best interests of the child.

The group further emphasized that there is the need to offer training to various actors at national level, such as case managers, and also immigration authorities and child services.

The workshop is the second transnational workshop that took place as part of the CADRE project and will be followed by a third workshop, on access to remedies for human rights violations in alternatives to detention for migrant children,as well as by on-line conferences and national trainings during the second year of duration of the project.

See the agenda here.

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