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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.