[European Union] Protecting children in migration across the European Union: Learning from practices

20 Feb 2019

The number of refugee and migrant children has been on the rise across Europe. There are many instances in which the host country has failed to provide essential services to migrant and refugee children that would help identify them, process their cases efficiently, and ultimately protect them. There are, however, examples of promising practices and innovative solutions implemented in various European countries to address the situation. UNICEF has outlined five such practices from Greece, Italy and Germany that can be used elsewhere to protect children on the move.

 According to Sarah Crowe, UNICEF Innocenti Senior Advisor: “While the dust may have settled on the so-called migration crisis in Europe, it is important to document what worked and what didn’t work for refugee and migrant children so that no matter how many children on the move may or may not flee to Europe in the future, systems will not and should not fail them as they once did. These models and measures can serve as a template to do the right thing for them and treat them first and foremost as children in need of care and protection.”

These examples of good practices share a focus on improving the systems for child protection and ensuring their accessibility for children on the move. To achieve this, the following elements were essential:

  • Data collection
  • Implementing pilot approaches and testing different solutions to find what works and what can be improved
  • Facilitating an exchange of experience on all levels, within the country and across borders
  • Putting together multidisciplinary teams
  • Using resources that were already available, like guidance and tools produced by the EU, in their work
  • Fighting discrimination and prioritizing children`s rights
  • Having a good understanding of the situation the children are coming from and the challenges they have been facing

Some of the highlighted initiatives are:

  • Supported Independent Living in Greece. Greek authorities developed this in response to the lack of accommodation and basic care available for the growing number of asylum-seeking children in Greece. As part of this initiative, unaccompanied children aged 16–17 were placed in community-based care; four children living in an apartment with the support of a multidisciplinary team. The project started in 2018, and it is planned to become nationwide this year.
  • The Minimum Standards for the Protection of Refugees and Migrants Living in Refugee Centres was developed in Germany, with UNICEF, to deal with the increasing number of children and families staying in refugee centres for extended periods of time.
  • In Italy, a guardianship model for unaccompanied children has been implemented. National legislation was updated to include references to this model, and Regional and National Ombudspersons are tasked with training guardians. As a result, children have been placed in home-like settings, and are able to voice their opinions and concerns.

Further information on prominent practices can be found in the link below.

This project is funded by: