Guidance for state authorities on the design and implementation of return procedures that are child rights compliant
New guidance on respecting children's rights in return policies and practices published by UNICEF, IOM, ECRE and others
30 September 2019
New guidance on respecting children's rights in return policies and practices was published last week by UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Save the Children, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Child Circle.
You can download the 32-page guidance from the PICUM website here.
It explains: "This document provides guidance for state authorities on the design and implementation of return procedures that are child rights compliant. In particular, it sets out concrete measures necessary to ensure respect for the rights of every child, including children in families, when implementing return legislation and policy in Europe, in line with international law obligations, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the EU Return Directive where applicable."
The guidance deals with the minimum standards and procedures to be followed by immigration authorities when dealing with the return of a child, whether unaccompanied, separated or within a family.
The guidance addresses how to design procedures, what factors should be considered, possible outcomes and how to implement a decision when return is found to be in the best interests of the child.
Across its five main sections, the guidance covers:
• When does the question of return of children arise and how are their best interests considered?
• Developing the best-interests procedure for the identification of durable solution.
• Implementation of a return decision in the best interests of the child.
• Children's data. Use of personal data of children in return procedures.
• Ageing out. Protection needs do not end on a child's 18th birthday.
UNICEF and the other organisations emphasise that the views of the child should be heard throughout the process – including through interviews and consultations with the child by trained professionals – and properly taken into account in determining the child's best interests.
The guidance adds that states should ensure that children have access to free and quality legal advice and representation at all stages of the procedure and that immigration authorities, lawyers and judges should receive specific training on child rights and child-friendly interviewing.
Meanwhile, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) earlier this month published a focus paper on the fundamental rights considerations when returning unaccompanied children.
The 36-page report is here.
FRA says the focus paper aims to help national authorities involved in return-related tasks, including child-protection services, to ensure full rights compliance.
FRA adds: "The paper underlines the importance of always considering the child's best interests when deciding what to do, in line with EU and international law. This applies to decisions granting the right to stay as well as obliging them to return."
This focus paper is structured as follows:
• Section 1 gives an overview of the issue and of EU Member States practices.
• Section 2 presents the 'best interests of the child' as an overarching principle in any action affecting children, which is also applicable in the context of returns.
• Section 3 gives guidance on how to assess the best interests of the child.
• Section 4 looks at two specific scenarios at the border affecting unaccompanied children, namely non-admission at the border and passing back to another Member State.
• Section 5 describes how to implement the outcome of the best interest assessment.
• Section 6 briefly discusses child-protection oversight and monitoring.