Joint Open Letter to the European Council

Time to act to ensure childrens rights in the EUs migration policy.

At the end of 2014, almost 60 million people globally have been forcibly displaced. It is the highest number ever recorded by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), and the number is still steadily increasing. According to UNHCR, almost 50% of the displaced people are under the age of 18. As children, they face a greater risk of abuse, violence and exploitation[1]. In addition, they might have experienced traumatic events, witnessed or taken part in violent acts, or become separated from their parents during the conflict or on their way to a safer place.

These situations tend to affect both the long term and short term health of the child, and World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified children as one of the vulnerable groups in disasters, that are taking a bigger share of the disease burden. This is especially true when the children are also affected by poverty – including malnutrition and lack of housing – which is common among displaced populations. In addition, several sources have highlighted the lack of education for refugee children around the world. There are reports of underaged migrants held in detention centeres in different countries – from Australia[2] to Libya[3] to United Kingdom[4], where access to education, healthcare and other services is often very limited.

Human rights, which by definition apply to all ?human beings, are often violated when it comes to displaced populations. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, children should be protected according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention mentions amongst others the right for children to be with their parents, the right to education as well as recreation, and the state responsibility to ensure that children do not take part in armed conflict. These conditions, aimed to ensure the best possible environment for child development, are also often not met for this group. However, with the right support, children can be highly resilient. Research has shown that early life interventions can help mitigate the consequences of adverse experiences and effective in contributing to a better health as well as social participation later in life[5].

Against this background, IFMSA together with 58 other well-established human rights and health organisations has written an open letter to the European Council, calling for action to ensure the rights of children within the EUs migration policy. We call on EU and its member states to consider the best interest of the child in decision making, to ensure access to services such as health care and education, to protect children from all forms of violence and detention, to protect family unity, provide safe routes to Europe and proper information as well as legal representation within the asylum process. You can find the letter here.






Authors: Jessica Zhang (SCORP Development Assistant), Karim M. Abdeltawab (Liaison Officer for Human Rights and Peace Issues)

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