The Eurochild National Partners Networks (NPN) Group, which gathers 20 networks and represents in total 2.000 child rights organizations around Europe, met for two days (18. and 19. May) in Brussels to talk about migrant and refugee children. The Network of Organisations for Children of Serbia (MODS) was represented by Jasmina Miković from Praxis, president of the MODS Management Board.
The first day of the meeting was focused on capacity building on advocating for the rights of refugee and migrant children by mainstreaming children’s rights in all EU and national policies and practices. Eurochild’s aim is to advocate for the EU to encourage Member States to strengthen their child protection systems to accommodate the specific needs of migrant and refugee children.
To this end, Eurochild is currently collaborating with other European networks with a broader expertise on migration. Some of the Brussels-based networks, the Missing Children Europe, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, and the European Council on Refugee and Exiles shared their experience on advocating for the rights of migrants and refugees. They highlighted that action at national level is of key importance to improve the situation of migrant and refugee children.
EU instruments, such as the Communication on the protection of children in migration, need to “leave Brussels” and become well-known at national and local level: there are tools to be used to encourage national authorities to implement policies. The EU Return Handbook is currently being revised and updated by the European Commission: there is a risk of stronger measures promoting returns so need to monitor how governments will be reacting to it.
Moreover, Eurochild, in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages International, is currently developing a Compendium of case studies on the integration of migrant and refugee children across Europe. Therefore, some of the contributors to the Compendium were invited to the meeting to present their project/practice, highlighting achievements as well as challenges and lessons learnt. Marion Macleod from the Children in Scotland, UK, presented two examples of different approaches:
The Scottish Guardianship Service, a partnership between the Scottish Refugee Council and Aberlour, through which young people are allocated a guardian;
and an initiative by local authorities to find families for young unaccompanied asylum seekers, relying on faith communities and cultural groups.
Barbora Messova, Coalition for Children Slovakia, provided an overview of the main challenges and lessons learnt in relation to advocating for the rights of migrant and refugee children at national level, with a particular focus on UASC with families in detention. Barbora underlined the importance of adapting language and methods depending on the relevant stakeholder to be engaged, in order for advocacy to have a stronger impact.
Daria Crimella, Fondazione Albero della Vita, Italy, presented the “Un Faro in Città” project, which involved the establishment of a reception centre in the city of Milan to foster families’ independence and integration. The project focuses on two areas of intervention: addressing the needs of the beneficiaries, such as accommodation, food, and health care; as well as empowering families by providing psychological and legal assistance.
The second day of the meeting was focused on the Future of the EU, including the European Commission White paper on the future of Europe, the impact of Brexit, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester Process. Réka Tunyogi, Head of Advocacy at Eurochild, gave a presentation providing an overview of the latest updates at EU level, and their potential impact on children’s rights, particularly focusing on the White paper on the future of Europe; the European Pillar of Social Rights; and the Work-Life Balance package. Also, she gave a presentation on the European Semester, as a process through which Member States’ progress towards achieving the Europe 2020 targets is monitored, and it represents an important tool to advocate for children’s rights at EU and national level.
The next Eurochild NPN Group meeting will take place on 11 October 2017 in Belgrade, followed by the International Conference Investing in Children on 12 October 2017.