World Refugee Day: Child rights professionals share their stories

In 2015, of the more than 1 million people who applied for asylum in the EU Member States, 30 percent were children.

Headlines and front-page photos of children being carried out of boats at the shores of Europe, of young boys barely 15 years crossing barbed wires from Serbia and Hungary, and of those sitting idle in camps in Greece have become the new norm. But very little is known about what happens once children move on and try to rebuild their lives across Europe. But professionals working with children and families are raising the alarm.

Many of these children are being denied basic rights, including care within a family, education, and freedom from violence. The potential negative consequences for Europe's future are huge and worrisome.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Eurochild has released a series of interviews entitled “Turning the tide for children on the move” offering a snapshot of the situation of children on the move in different parts of Europe in both transit and destination countries. It is built on interviews with professionals working with and for children and families. Nine child rights professionals from Eurochild's membership share the challenges they face on the ground and recommendations to national governments and EU institutions for the protection of the rights of children.

Eurochild echoes the voices of its members in Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France and calls on the EU to act in the best interests of children on the move, no matter their status.

Reality in numbers:

In 2015, of the more than 1 million people who applied for asylum in the EU Member States, 30 percent were children.

Out of these approximately 88,300 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU in 2015, which is 4 times more than in 2014.

Reality in words:

Smugglers and traffickers hang out outside the shelters and wait for children. Children don't stay at the shelters or camps for a long time. They choose to follow them and we are left in the dark. Athina Kammenou, Greece

A recent study underlined that 23.2% of the unaccompanied children registered in Italy are at the moment unreachable.” Francesco Salvatore, Italy

Unaccompanied children often face discrimination in Austria. Austrian children deprived of parental care grow up in small group homes which have a capacity of up to 8-10 children; whereas unaccompanied children grow up in institutions which have a capacity of up to 50 children. Stefan Bauer, Austria

“Behind the right to education and access to school lies the sense of “normality” which has to do with their right to go to school, have friends, play or do activities. Also, this school time protects children from exploitation, trafficking or prostitution.” Roland Biache, France

Read the full paper here