The conference ‘Improving the work with Children on the move in the EU’ took place in Brussels on Thursday 24th April 2014. Organised by the IJJO and held in the European Economic and Social Committee, it provided a chance to discuss the current situation of unaccompanied Children from the perspective of Family tracing and Needs assessment and to present the results of the NET For U project - “Needs Tackling and Networks for Unaccompanied Children integration", with the support of the European Commission, DG Home Affairs.
One of the objectives of the project “Net for U” was to produce two specific tools to train social workers to build individualised programmes: the Toolkit that targets a common approach to special needs assessment and family tracing, and the Intervention Manual, which focuses on programs for children covering different areas, such as education, training, social and family relations. Both instruments will soon be available on the NET for U website.
Building on the main results of the project, the Conference on the 24th of April brought together experts in the field from around Europe, providing an opportunity to analyse specific issues, tackled in three roundtables.
The event was inaugurated by Ms. Grace Attard, member of the European Economic and Social Committee, who underlined the need to address the specific issue of unaccompanied children as a growing phenomenon that deserves great attention.
The First Roundtable “Working with Children on the move and their families: the results of the Net for U project,” was opened by Mr. Brian de Lord, Director of Europeace Youth, who presented the project Net for U and underlined the importance of a comparative analysis of the different European practices, instrumental to achieving better coordination.
Then, Mr. Pablo Gallego, from the Fundación Diagrama Spain, shared the specific experience of his association in using the toolkit. In doing so, he presented the migration patterns that concern Spain in particular and underlined the need for adequate information strategies, as well as for psychological assistance.
Mr. Emanuele Frezza presented the evaluation of the toolkit realized by his organization, Synergia (Italy), carrying out quantitative and qualitative analysis. The findings were mostly positive, as social operators valued both the toolkit and the manual as being clear and useful on a day to day basis. However they also pointed out that effectiveness would be enhanced by adapting the instrument to the specific context.
During the Second Roundtable “Good practices on Family tracing, needs assessment, and reception of Children on the move”, Mr. Pascal Reyntjens, from the International Organization of Migrations (IOM), focused on the assessment of the family background, which should take into account various elements: the economic and social context of origin, the risks of reunification and the eventual possibility of reintegration in the home country, as well as family expectations, and the personal project of the child on the move. He also underlined the importance of communication between the various institutional actors, to bridge social and legal assistance more efficiently, and with the children, to correctly inform them of the outcome of the assessment procedure.
The contribution of Ms. Lilana Keith, from the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), was oriented to a broader consideration of the problems faced by undocumented children, whether or not they are accompanied, or even whether or not they are really on the move. She underlined that although specific definitions are helpful to elaborate best practices, a unitary approach based on children’s rights should be the common basis of action, as no child should be subject to inferior standards of protection.
Ms. Ulrike Schwarz, Legal consultant of BUMF (Germany), one of the stakeholders of the IOM PRUMA project, presented the main results of this recent program. As the objective is to foster the protection of the right to family reunification, the legal framework was investigated. It was found that the Dublin Regulation, which includes the right for children to be reunited with any family they have in any EU Member State, up to the fourth degree of relation, is facing a definite lack of implementation. She also illustrated some of the best practices developed in each of the countries analysed during the project (Germany, Italy, France, Greece, UK and Malta).
The final contribution to this roundtable, by Ms. Daphne Bouteillet, a representative of Save the Children, shared the content of the EU CONNECT project, which focuses on promoting higher standards of children reception and overcoming the fragmentation of national strategies. A final report will include mappings of national practices, to identify common challenges, and specific tools, based on a child rights perspective and on relevant European obligations.
The Third Roundtable was dedicated to “Improving the coordination and cooperation between EU and non EU actors for a better protection and integration of Children on the move in EU”.
Mr. Salvatore Parata, from Terre des Hommes, presented the “Destination Unknown Campaign”, based on two main pillars that should guide policy-making: the key message “listen to me”, to emphasize the need to include the child’s perspective into policy-making, and the attention to the risk of exploitation.
Then, he addressed the state of affairs of European policies. Recent events have brought to general attention the limitations of the European policies regarding migration, highlighting, for instance, the issues faced by local authorities as a result of the mare nostrum strategy. The current situation calls out for stronger Europeanisation of the matter at large.
Last but not least, the contribution of Mr. Stephan Durviaux and Mr. David Lallemand, delegates of the French Community for Child’s Rights in Belgium, member of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC), screened the teaser of the documentary “Children on the move, children first!”, a project carried out to raise general awareness on the issue of unaccompanied minors. They illustrated how the documentary technique allows for a real representation of the topic through the voices of the children and of the people working directly with them.
In conclusion of this meeting, Mr. Cédric Foussard, Director of International Affairs of the IJJO, stressed that the topic of unaccompanied children in Europe is a pressing one, and that it has concerned the IJJO for many years; in 2007, a conference was held in Poitiers on “The migration of unaccompanied minors in Europe”, focusing on the risks of trafficking and exploitation. Still, because of the complexity of the phenomenon, and of the evolution of European law, the IJJO believes that it is vital to maintain impetus and constantly support improvements in the area of policy-making. In this light, the conference “Improving the work with Children on the move in the EU” provided a very active forum of debate, taking into account the practical difficulties, the legal framework and the overall European context surrounding Children on the move in the EU. As such, it has painted a clear picture of the multilayered nature and the complexity of the issues that need to be tackled to achieve a more coherent and effective protection of migrant minors. Yet the contributions of each partner went one step further, offering tailored strategies and concrete tools for improvement.
In order to follow up this project and the debates it has generated during this Conference, why not consider a Brussels-based platform bringing together the main federations of actors working with Children on the move on family tracing and Needs Assessment issues? This was the idea put forward by Mr. Foussard to conclude this meeting.