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Children in migration need information on reality, not just on rights, says a new report
5.3.18
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Press release issued by the Council of Europe on 5 March 2018. See the roundtable conference report: Child-friendly information for children in migration (pdf)
Strasbourg, 05.03.2018 – Children in migration at all the stages of their journey to Europe should receive child-friendly and understandable information, which nevertheless must reflect the realities and difficulties they may face in the new environment, says the Council of Europe in a new report published today. The most effective way of providing the information is through personal verbal communication with professionally trained people the child trusts; leaflets and print material in clear language should be used as a complementary means; accurate peer-to-peer information should also be promoted.

The report prepared by the Children Rights Division of the Council of Europe, as well as the accompanying video based on feedback from children in migration in Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece and Hungary, reflect the views of the children themselves, NGOs and child-protection authorities, and provide recommendations for further action.

Before leaving their home, the children said they had not received information about the difficulties they would face on the journey and integration in the host country. During the journey, they had only received incomplete information from smugglers, but had no information about who the authorities were, whom they could trust, where to find help or how to access their rights; this made them feel stressed and abandoned. Receiving information immediately upon arrival was considered important, but they were often overwhelmed and could not absorb and remember everything. Peer-to-peer communication via social media was seen by children as useful for learning from those with similar experiences and should be supported by professionals to ensure the accuracy of information.

To prevent violence, sexual abuse and trafficking, it is vital to inform children, especially girls, about these risks, as well as about the different roles of child-protection authorities, the report says. Children should understand what legal and social rights they are entitled to, be informed about complaints mechanisms, access to school and health care, the duration and likely outcomes of various procedures. They should get accurate and consistent information on the country where they are staying, transit procedures and their life after they turn 18 so that they have a clear understanding of their possible integration pathway. The report stresses that children want to have a realistic idea about procedures in host States, including “painful” procedures, such as the possibility of forced return.

In the context of asylum, children not only need information to understand their rights but they also need professional advice on how to exercise their rights, the likely timelines and outcomes of the procedures engaged. When using interpreters, professionals should bear in mind that children may be afraid to talk about their international protection needs via an interpreter from the same culture for fear of reprisals from members of their community.

In order to bust the myth that irregular routes are more effective, accurate information about legal routes to and through Europe should be provided not only to children, but also to their parents and to the diaspora.

Information provided should be adapted to the child’s vulnerabilities, gender, culture and age; use simple language and be a combination of individual interviews, group sessions, printed and online materials.

Examples of promising practices featured in the report include the use of videos and games to educate children where to access help; the use of cultural mediators to communicate with children in Pozzallo Hotspot (Italy), as well as provision of information in a uniform format across five States along the “Balkans route” (Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia) with information adapted to each State, the initiative that will also be rolled out in Italy and Austria.

The report is based on the findings of a roundtable conference held in Strasbourg in November 2017 in the framework of the Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019). These findings and recommendations will serve as the basis for a Handbook for professionals on promoting child-friendly information for children in migration.

Contact: Tatiana Baeva [tatiana.baeva [at] coe.int], Spokesperson/Media officer, Tel. +33 3 88 41 21 41

See the roundtable conference report: Child-friendly information for children in migration (pdf)

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