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Human Rights Commissioner speaks out for migrant children

26 September 2013

The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, pleads in a human rights comment for more respect for the rights of migrant children. He says that migrant children should be treated as children first and not as asylum seekers. The Commissioner is worried about the plans of several European governments to send children back to unsafe countries such as Afghanistan. These governments are responsible for the faith of the returned children.

First a child, then a migrant

The Human Rights Commissioner emphasises in his comment that migrant children are very vulnerable. Many have been traumatised or abused before arriving in Europe. They are entitled to care and their rights should be respected, but many await a harsh treatment. State authorities must never forget that migrant children, including those who are asylum seekers, are first of all children, says Muiznieks. Children's rights must always have priority and all actions should be based on the best interests of the child.

Return houses: high risk projects

Authorities in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with Denmark as an observer, are trying to set up a return house in Afghanistan. The Commissioner emphasizes that past experience has shown that children run high risks in such unsafe and unstable countries. Family reunification is practically impossible and most children disappear. Children should never be sent back to places where their safety and well-being are in danger.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org