International protection of unaccompanied minors

EESC opinion: International protection of unaccompanied minors

Key points

  • The EESC strongly recommends that the principle of "the best interests of the child" takes precedence over all other law. The EESC notes that the current proposal does not provide criteria on "how" and "by whom" the "best interests of the child" are to be established. To avoid conflicts of interest, the body determining the best interests of the child should be an independent body not connected to the immigration authorities.
  • The Committee recommends that all personnel dealing with unaccompanied minors is properly trained to respect children’s rights. The terms "inform" and "effective opportunity" need to be clearly defined to ensure that the minor is able to understand the implications of the whole process of lodging an application for international protection in any EU Member State.
  • Unaccompanied and separated children should never be refused entry into a country, in accordance with the non-refoulement obligations deriving from international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law and ending the detention of children should be addressed as an urgent priority, whether they are accompanied or not, and regardless of which procedure they are subject to.
  • The EESC strongly urges Member States to ensure that any age assessment procedures are based on the minor’s best interests with the primary aim being to ensure that the minor is granted the rights and protection he/she is entitled to. The EESC strongly recommends that in situations where the minor becomes an adult during the process of determining the Member State responsible for examining the application for international protection, the person’s age should be considered to be that on the date of the initial application.
  • The EESC considers that there is a need for a more comprehensive definition of "unaccompanied children in an irregular migrant situation" to cover the various situations that have arisen in practice and which are not covered by the proposed regulation.
  • The EESC stresses the importance of consultation with civil society experts, legal professionals and practitioners with experience in the field of migrant children, and looks forward to collaborating with the Commission in this process.