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Action plan on unaccompanied minors (2010-14)
This action plan provides a common approach to tackling the challenges relating to the arrival in the European Union (EU) of large numbers of unaccompanied minors. The action plan is based on the principle of the best interests of the child.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 6 May 2010 – Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010 – 2014) [COM(2010) 213 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
A significant number of unaccompanied minors arrive in the European Union (EU) each year. The term “unaccompanied minors” refers to non-EU country nationals or stateless persons who are below the age of eighteen and who arrive in an EU country unaccompanied by a responsible adult or who are left unaccompanied after having entered an EU country.
Although EU legislative and financial instruments on asylum, immigration and trafficking in human beings address, either directly or indirectly, the situation of unaccompanied minors, greater coherence and better cooperation is needed within the EU as well as with countries of origin and transit. In order for the EU and its countries to respond more effectively, a common approach needs to be established that respects the rights of the child provided by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that is based on solidarity between the relevant countries and cooperation with civil society and international organisations.
This action plan identifies several problems and presents a number of solutions relating to the situation of unaccompanied minors. It acknowledges the lack of data on these minors and sets out three main strands for action: prevention, protection and durable solutions.
Data on unaccompanied minors
Comprehensive, reliable and comparable data is paramount to properly assessing and finding appropriate solutions to the situation of unaccompanied minors. Currently, the regulation on statistics on migration requires EU countries to only provide data on unaccompanied minors applying for international protection. This limitation needs to be overcome to obtain harmonised and complete statistics on all unaccompanied minors.
The information and data exchanges between EU countries should be improved with the help of existing agencies and networks, such as the European Migration Network and the European Asylum Support Office. Cooperation with countries of origin and transit should also be improved. To this end, the gathering of information on migration routes and criminal networks is essential. The systematic inclusion of this information in the migration profiles of the countries concerned should also be promoted. Both Frontex and Europol are already active in their respective fields; however, their roles with regard to data collection and analysis should be further reinforced.
Main strands of action
To effectively deal with the issue of unaccompanied minors, the first action must consist of preventing the unsafe migration and trafficking of children. In this context, consideration must be given to the different reasons the minors leave their country/region of origin and come to the EU. Therefore, central to the preventive work is collaboration with countries of origin and transit as well as with civil society and international organisations. Prevention involves four principal areas:
- addressing the issue of migration of unaccompanied minors in other policy fields, such as development cooperation, poverty reduction, education, health and human rights;
- promoting awareness-raising activities and training relating to early identification and protection of victims targeted at those who are or will be in contact with children in the countries of origin and transit;
- promoting awareness-raising activities on the risks relating to irregular migration targeted at children and their families;
- supporting the development of comprehensive child protection systems and birth registration systems.
EU and national external cooperation instruments should be used to support activities in these areas. At the same time, it is essential that protection programmes close to countries of origin continue to be financed.
Upon detection at the border or on the territory of the EU, an unaccompanied minor must be placed under appropriate protection. While provisions on reinforced protection are included in the relevant EU migration instruments, they are context-specific and do not provide the same standards of reception and assistance. The appointment of a representative for an unaccompanied minor should be guaranteed. It is also paramount to separate minors from adults to prevent (re)victimisation. In addition, minors should be provided with appropriate accommodation; detention should only be used in exceptional cases.
Early profiling of the type of minor, building trust and the use of measures provided by EU legislation are important for:
- identifying the minor, assessing his/her age and tracing his/her family;
- preventing the minor’s disappearance form care;
- identifying/prosecuting the traffickers/smugglers.
In order to find durable solutions, each case should be assessed individually, keeping in mind the best interests of the child. An unaccompanied minor may either be:
- returned and reintegrated in his/her country of origin, with priority given to voluntary return, in full respect of the safeguards provided by the “Return Directive”;
- granted an international protection or other legal status and integrated in the host country;
- resettled to an EU country.