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Protecting all children in #migration: Commission outlines priority actions

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Over the past two years, a growing number of children in migration have arrived in the EU, many of them without their families.

While EU and member states' legislation provide a solid framework for protection, the recent surge in arrivals has put national systems under pressure and exposed gaps and shortcomings. This is why the Commission is today setting out actions to reinforce the protection of all migrant children at all stages of the process. It is necessary to ensure that migrant children are swiftly identified when they arrive in the EU and that they receive child-adequate treatment. Trained personnel need to be available to assist children during their status determination and children should be provided with sustainable long-term perspectives through better access to education and health care. Child protection is a central priority in the European Agenda on Migration and the Commission will continue to support member states' efforts through training, guidance, operational support and funding.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "The number of children arriving in the EU with or without their families has increased dramatically. We need to make sure that children who need protection actually receive it. And we need to do it now. This is our moral duty as well as our legal responsibility. Children should be our top priority as they are the most vulnerable, especially when they have nobody to guide them. That is why today we are setting out a number of concrete actions to better protect, support and take care of the best interests of all children who are arriving in the European Union."

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Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "One in three asylum seekers in Europe is a child. Children are the most vulnerable migrants and ensuring their protection from the moment they leave their home countries should be mainstreamed in our migration policy. This means that we need a comprehensive and stepped-up response. Today we propose concrete actions to support our member states in addressing the needs of all children at all stages of migration: to improve the identification of children, to train involved personnel, to step up relocation, but also to ensure swift family tracing in countries of origin and measures to enhance early integration. Both the Commission and our EU agencies stand ready to move forward to implement these actions."

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vĕra Jourová added: "When speaking about child migrants, we should never forget that first and foremost they are children. Their best interests must be taken into consideration at all stages of the migration process. Child migrants, especially those who are unaccompanied, should be supported by guardians or foster families, as early as possible. The integration of these children into our societies depends on how fast they can go back to a more stable life. We will continue to support member states to give these children the childhood they deserve."

Drawing on expertise from all relevant policy areas, the Commission is proposing a number of priority areas for member states to focus on, supported by the Commission and EU Agencies, to improve the protection of children in migration and ensure a closer link between the asylum and child protection services:

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  • Swift identification and protection upon arrival: A person responsible for child protection should be present at an early stage of the registration phase and in all reception facilities hosting children and child protection officers should be appointed in each hotspot. Member states should put in place the necessary procedures to systematically report and exchange information on all missing children.
  • Adequate reception conditions for children: The needs of each child must be assessed as early as possible upon arrival and all children need to have access to legal assistance, healthcare, psychosocial support and education without delay and regardless of their status. For unaccompanied minors, the possibility of foster or family-based care should be provided. Everything must be done to provide alternatives to administrative detention for children.
  • Swift status determination and effective guardianship: The role of guardians for unaccompanied minors should be strengthened. To this end, the Commission will establish a European guardianship network to exchange good practices. To support the implementation of reliable age-assessment procedures by all member states, EASO will update its guidance shortly. Concerted efforts should also be made to speed up family tracing and family reunification procedures, within or outside the EU. In all procedures related to the migration process, cases with children should always be given priority. This goes for relocation of unaccompanied migrants from Greece or Italy as well.
  • Durable solutions and early integration measures: The Commission will further promote the integration of children through funding and the exchange of good practices. Member states are called upon to step up resettlement of children in need of protection and to ensure that family tracing and reintegration measures are put in place for those children who are to be returned.
  • Addressing root causes and protecting children along migrant routes outside the EU: The EU has stepped up its work with partner countries on mainstreaming child protection in migration under the Migration Partnership Framework. Further efforts are needed to support partner countries in strengthening national child protection systems and in preventing child trafficking. A timely follow-up to the recently-renewed EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, including in countries of origin and transit, should be ensured.

 

A determined, concerted and coordinated follow-up to the key actions set out in this Communication is required at EU, national, regional and local level, also in cooperation with civil society and international organisations. The Commission will closely monitor this process and report regularly to the Council and European Parliament.

Background

In the context of the migration crisis, the number of child migrants arriving in Europe has increased significantly. In 2015 and 2016, 30% of asylum applicants in the EU were children.

As children in migration are exposed to high risks of violence, trafficking or exploitation along migration routes or may go missing, or become separated from their families, they require a specific protection. Children have the right to be protected, in line with relevant provisions of EU law, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and with international law on the rights of the child. The child's best interests must be the primary consideration in all actions or decisions concerning children.

This Communication follows up on the European Agenda on Migration and the Communication on the State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration. It builds on progress made under the Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014) as outlined in the Staff Working Paper accompanying the Communication.

It also builds on the 10th European Forum on the rights of the child organised by the Commission in November 2016 and on the "Lost in Migration" conference from January 2017, which have underlined the need for urgent targeted actions to better protect children in migration.

More information

Communication: The protection of children in migration

Commission Staff Working Document: Implementing the Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014)

Questions & Answers: Protecting Children in Migration

Factsheet: Actions for the protection of children in migration

All press material on the European Agenda on Migration

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €231 million in pre-financing to Slovenia

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The European Commission has disbursed €231 million to Slovenia in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's grant allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €2.5 billion in total, consisting of €1.8bn in grants and €705m in loans, over the lifetime of its plan. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80 billion in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The Slovenian plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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