New York - As the European Union (EU) prepares for critical talks on the rules governing applications from people seeking protection in Europe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for the interests and rights of children to be given greater priority.
New York – As the European Union (EU) prepares for critical talks on the rules governing applications from people seeking protection in Europe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for the interests and rights of children to be given greater priority.
In the coming days, 28 EU member States and the European Parliament will begin examining a draft proposal drawn up by the European Commission to reform the so-called Dublin Regulation, under which it can take 11 months between a child’s arrival and his or her transfer to the State that will consider an application, UNICEF said in a statement.
Such a lengthy process could hinder family reunification and expose children to various risks, prompting UNICEF to recommend a three-month deadline.
UNICEF is also calling for more resources and professionals to be made available to ensure that guardians are appointed immediately to adequately protect, guide and support an unaccompanied or separated child.
The agency is also calling for community alternatives to detention: no child should be detained pending his or her transfer to another State, the appointment of a guardian or provision of child-appropriate accommodation. UNICEF has stressed the use of non-custodial, community-based alternatives for children and their families claiming international protection.
The debate comes amid a refugee and migration crisis that has overwhelmed Europe’s existing asylum process, and left in the balance the fate of more than 400,000 children who applied for asylum in Europe between January and November 2015.
The new rules will determine which State is responsible for considering an application for international protection that has been submitted anywhere in the EU. “These discussions are an opportunity to strengthen vital safeguards to which children seeking asylum in Europe are entitled under international law,” said Noala Skinner, Director of the UNICEF Brussels Office. “For Europe’s common asylum system to be humane, fair and efficient, the protection of children must be a central priority.”