Representatives of the Council of Europe, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and national stakeholders from Portugal organized a seminar, ‘Effective Protection of Refugee and Migrant Children in Portugal’, in Lisbon on 27–28 May 2019.
The event focused on capacity building advancements for professionals working with children on the move, developing programs aligned with the latest international standards, and raising awareness on these issues.
According to Lilja Gretarsdottir, the secretary of the Council of Europe's Steering Committee Drafting Group on Migration and Human Rights, the seminar presented a great opportunity for cooperation between international institutions and national authorities to address challenges that emerge in the areas of child protection, migration management, law enforcement, and social services.
‘Sharing information on the international legal and institutional framework, and on the practice of entities such as UNHCR and Council of Europe can serve as inspiration for the standardization of understandings and procedures in Portugal,’ stressed Marina Portugal, the head of the Asylum and Refugees Department of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF).
As stated by Roland Schilling, the acting regional representative of UNHCR's Regional Representation for Southern Europe, the two-day event in Lisbon presented a chance to ‘support ongoing initiatives by the government to further strengthen protection of children, starting from the moment of arrival, through cooperation between asylum, anti-trafficking, and child protection institutions in Portugal’.
Other relevant subjects discussed by the nearly 80 national and international participants of the seminar included current asylum procedures, age assessment, child trafficking and the development of child-friendly information. Moreover, special attention was given to the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017–2019), as well as best practices on alternatives to immigration detention.