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#Refugees: Fate of 10,000 missing refugee children debated in Civil Liberties Committee

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A young refugee boy walks under a line of wet clothes left to dry on a train wagon near the Idomeni transit station where more than 10,000 refugees and migrants remain despite the signing of the EU - Turkey migrant deal and the closure of the so-called Western Balkan Route. ; Despite the closure of the so called Western Balkan Route more than 10,000 refugees and migrants remain on the Greek side of the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, near the small village of Idomeni, hoping that the borders will re-open and they will be able to continue their journey northwards. At the Idomeni transit station which is currently running at five times its capacity food, water, shelter and medicine are running out as Greek authorities are struggling to cope.

10,000 refugee children have gone missing in Europe according to Europol© UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

How to protect unaccompanied minors and co-operate across borders to find missing children fast were the key issues in an emotional Civil Liberties Committee debate on Thursday (21 April) about the fate of 10,000 refugee children who have gone missing in Europe.

Representatives of the Europol law enforcement agency, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the NGO Missing Children Europe briefed MEPs on the numbers and reasons why the children are believed to have gone missing.

It is feared that some of these children are being exploited by criminal gangs, due to the often close ties between human smugglers, who facilitate travel for around 90% of the migrants, and criminal networks. These children may be sexually exploited, used for begging or forced to commit crimes. However, children may also disappear in search of friends or family in other EU countries or out of sheer desperation caused by cumbersome asylum procedures or detention in reception centres.

MEPs quizzed the invited speakers for facts and stressed the need to step up protection of unaccompanied minors so as to ensure their safety, as well as improving cross-border co-operation to find children who have gone missing and might have travelled on to another country.

According to the UNHCR,  35% of migrants entering the EU since 1 January 2016 are children. Many travel unaccompanied by an adult. In 2015, 85,482 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU, which was three times the 2014 figure. Half of them were from Afghanistan, and 13% from Syria.More than 90% of migrants travelling to Europe use intermediaries, according to a report on migrant smuggling published by Europol in February. These services are mostly provided by criminal groups.

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Kazakh president sets out five priorities for #Kazakhstan’s 'Third Stage of Modernization' 

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In his annual address to the nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, announced five main priorities as part of what he described as “Kazakhstan’s third stage of modernization”. The priorities are aimed at ensuring economic growth and supporting the country to become one of the top 30 most developed countries in the world by 2050.

The five priorities are: Acceleration of technological modernization of the economy, improved business environment, macroeconomic stability, improved quality of human capital and institutional reforms, including improved security and more action to tackle corruption.

President Nazarbayev said in his annual address: “I am setting the task of ensuring the implementation of the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan. It is necessary to create a new model of economic growth that will ensure the country's global competitiveness.”

He added: “This modernization is not a plan to combat current global challenges, but a reliable bridge to the future, to meet the objectives of Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy. It will be carried out on the basis of the 100 Concrete Steps Plan of the Nation.”

The Head of State also instructed the Government to developa package of measures for the technological re-equipment of basic industries by 2025.

The annual address followed a special announcement given by the President last week, in which he set out bold plansto increase the powers of parliament. President Nazarbayev stated that these constitutional reforms are aimed at furthering the democratic development of Kazakhstan, as the Government will be accountable to parliament.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed a constitutional reform aimed at furthering the democratic development of Kazakhstan. During a special televised address to the nation on 25 January, the President announced a number of functions that would be transferred either to the Government or Parliament. Public discussions on the proposed constitutional reforms will take place for the next month, concluding on 26 February. After this, the reforms will be presented to Parliament.