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New European Union returns policies ‘put children at risk’

Children’s charities emphasise express concern at ‘swift returns’ initiative

PICUM, Save the Children, IOM, UNICEF, OHCHR, the End Immigration Detention of Children campaign and the International Detention Coalition have published a joint statement in response to the European Commission's adoption of a Recommendation and Renewed Action Plan on 2 March 2017.

The children's charities and organisations have expressed concern that the Commission package on Return encourages member states to undertake 'swift returns' of people – including children – with reduced procedural safeguards and through the increased use of detention.

The European Commission adopted a Recommendation and Renewed Action Plan for EU member states to consider in their procedures to return men, women and children staying irregularly in the EU to their countries of origin or transit. It encourages member states to undertake swift returns, which limit basic safeguards and rights that should be guaranteed to all migrants, including in cases involving children.

This approach, say the organisations, would put children's lives at risk and would be in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every EU member state has ratified.

They welcome the reference in the document to best interests' assessment in return decisions for unaccompanied children and consider it essential for robust best interests procedures to be implemented before any child – including children with their families – is issued a return decision. This, they say, cannot be a tick box exercise. In considering whether return is in the best interests of the child, the child's views should be duly considered.

Forced removals and detention, they stress, are extremely harmful for children and families. Children should never be detained for immigration purposes, even as a last resort.

For more information about the Action Plan, click here. For the full response, click here.