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Council adopts child rights guidelines days after Commission recommends more child detention
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On 6 March the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted a revised set of Guidelines on protecting and promoting the rights of children just days after the Commission adopted a Recommendation on returns policy that called for, amongst other things, stepping up the detention of children.

See: Revision of the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2017) - Leave No Child Behind (6846/16, 6 March 2017, pdf)

The childrens' rights Guidelines state that:

"the EU should seek to ensure that no policy or action in any sector (e.g. trade, energy, migration etc.) undermines the rights of the child and ideally would support their realisation. It therefore embodies a 'do no harm' approach."

It seems 'joined-up policy-making' is not currently on the agenda in the EU institutions.

The Commission's Recommdation "on making returns more effective" noted that Member States should "ensure respect of the rights of the child," but at the same time said:

"Member States should not preclude in their national legislation the
possibility to place minors in detention, where this is strictly necessary to ensure the execution of a final return decision insofar as Member States are not able to ensure less coercive measures than detention that can be applied effectively in view of ensuring effective return."

Or, as stated in the Recommendation's preamble:

"an absolute prohibition of detention in such cases, may not give full effect to the obligation to take all necessary measures to ensure return, leading to annulment of return operations due to absconding."

See: Refugee crisis: Commission: Draconian Recommendations to "substantially increase rate of return" (Statewatch News Online, 2 March 2017)

While the Recommendation is not binding it will no doubt be seen as legitimising by certain EU governments - for example Hungary, where the parliament has approved a policy of detaining all asylum-seekers in "container camps". See: Hungary decides to detain asylum-seekers in ‘container camps’ (EurActiv, link)

As the UNHCR stated in response to the Hungarian parliament's decision:

"Children should never be detained under any conditions as detention is never in a child’s best interest."

See: UNHCR deeply concerned by Hungary plans to detain all asylum seekers (UNHCR, link)

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