Children pay the biggest price for the EU’s flawed refugee response

Refugees crossing border in Greece
A young boy attempts to cross the border from Greece into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) across a cold, fast-flowing river.

As leaders meet in Brussels to agree a deal around the refugee crisis, they are prioritising the security of their borders over the safety of children.

Forty per cent of those arriving in Greece in February this year were minors. And since the start of 2016 alone, nearly two a day have lost their lives crossing the sea.

It is children who are paying the highest price for the EU’s flawed response. Newborn babies are sleeping in rain and mud, tents and bathrooms are overflowing and diseases are rapidly spreading in miserable makeshift camps.

Children are being left stranded at borders, with little or no access to basic services. They risk being separated from their parents, and falling prey to smugglers and traffickers.

Unaccompanied children are particularly at risk due to a lack of shelter to house them for long periods of time.

Idomeni Greece refugee camp
A young girl walks inside the camp of Idomeni on the Greek border, wearing a waterproof jacket.

Violations of basic rights are also occurring across the whole route taken by those seeking safety in Europe. People have been denied access on the basis of their nationality, forcefully pushed back across borders and forced to stay in fetid, inadequate camps.

The EU must stop playing with people’s lives by applying restrictive policies on old and new routes taken by migrants.

By closing borders we are simply forcing people to take different, more dangerous routes to reach western Europe.

Evidence has shown time and again that a policy of containment does not work – people, not borders, must be protected.

We’re calling on European leaders to do four key things:

  1. Withdraw the ‘return one-resettle one’ policy for Syrians proposed at the Council last week. Currently 98% of Syrians and 80% of Iraqis are recognised as needing protection on their first asylum application. This means that any division between sending someone back to Turkey or allowing someone to enter the EU is completely arbitrary and illegal.
  2. Increase and quickly put into place their commitments to relocate people and offer more safe and legal routes to the EU. This is how we can prevent children from dying as they try to reach Europe.
  3. Make protection, particularly of children, key to any European plan about the refugee crisis. Asylum applications should be processed in line with international standards, people should have access to humane and decent reception centres, and search and rescue at sea should focus on saving lives, not pushing people back.
  4. Ensure there is an appropriate response in regions where those traveling to Europe originate, including the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. This response must focus on protecting people’s rights and on providing decent living conditions for refugees and displaced children.

Find out more about what we’re doing to help child refugees and their families.

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  • These people decided themselves to come to the EU illegally , and have to support the consequences of entering countries illegally , showing violence , and refusing to register as asylum seekers , and respecting the constraints .
    The EU economies cannot support massive immigration , especially when there are 20+ million unemployed , many of whom have lost their homes , and do not have access to good healthcare .
    NGOs represent minorities of citizens in the EU , and EU countries are democracies , so NGOs have to respect the majority or be classified as undemocratic .
    Most migrants are refusing to respect their conditions of asylum , and think they can go and stay wherever they want in the EU . Even EU citizens have to request permission to stay in another EU country after 3 months stay , and this can be refused
    Sorry to say International NGOs are becoming a danger for democracy and are incapable of understanding sustainability in countries , and the future problems associated with climate change .
    Asylum seekers only have one right in the EU , temporary protection , not residence , and even refugees do not have permanent residence rights .
    Integration has to be proved before nationality or permanent residence is given . NGOs who do not support this should be made legally accountable for the actions of all asylum seekers and refugees .
    THE EU is NOT responsible for all the illegal migrants of the planet , especially when Arab and Asian nations refuse them.

  • Hi, as a child rights’ organisation we believe it’s vital that the UK does all it can to ensure that the best interests of children are met. Anyone that is fleeing war or persecution has the right to international protection and the right to claim asylum. Mothers, Fathers, children and babies fleeing war zones like Syria and some of the deadliest countries on the planet are refugees, not economic migrants. They are fleeing bullets and bombs not economics.

    In the main, the families Save the Children meets, those risking their lives to reach Europe, are not choosing to leave their country for a better job. They have no choice. They are fleeing countries where there is no food, no medicine, little chance of survival and no chance of life. The children that have been rescued and the many others who are caught up in this crisis have often had harrowing experiences before leaving home or have suffered violence and exploitation in transit. Stories of kidnappings, torture, slavery and other horrors are tragically common among the children we work with.

    The unaccompanied children we are calling upon the UK to help do not have extended family they can stay with – these are children who are alone with few safe places to stay and no one to protect them. We work tirelessly to allow children to remain in, or return to, the care of their families, but in some cases this simply isn’t possible.