Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Refugee children should have a genuine chance to seek asylum

Il messaggio di Thomas HammarbergImage by hidden side via Flickr
“The asylum policies in Europe largely ignore children among refugees. Government should better protect them” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

“Migrant children are often not listened to and rather treated as if they were possessions belonging to their parents. It is often forgotten that they could have their own reasons for seeking protection.”

The Commissioner observes that when children arrive in a family group, the parents are regularly interviewed about the grounds for their asylum application, while often the minors are not given the opportunity to spell out their reasons. When they arrive unaccompanied, the migration authorities tend to focus only on how to bring them back to their parents, ignoring that they have in many cases escaped from their country with the fullest support of their family.

Furthermore, in cases when authorities do intend to interview children more seriously, there appears to be a lack of capacity to do this in a meaningful manner. “Overcoming language and cultural barriers - and the effects of trauma - require a particular skill. The appointment of guardians defending the interests of individual children, as now proposed by the EU Commission, is one step in the right direction.”

Commissioner Hammarberg stresses that the responses by governments to the needs of refugee children have profound implications for their future. The principle of the best interest of the child must guide the asylum process. “Each child should be seen as an individual, and special consideration must be given to his or her particular circumstances.”

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