“In front of walls and behind bars”

Children’s rights are being trampled on at the external borders of the European Union

Children and young people are forcibly pushed back at the EU’s external borders (“pushbacks”) and detained after arriving in the EU – a systematic practice in several EU external border states. On the occasion of the meeting of the EU interior ministers next week, terre des hommes will use the current report “In Front of Walls and Behind Bars” to show the practices that violate children’s rights in more detail using the examples of Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Poland. The report primarily refers to the experiences and advice of civil society project partner organizations and also points to the shared responsibility of the EU, whose institutions approve and support the behavior of the member states.

“Despite its incompatibility with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, migrant detention among children and young people is a reality in three of the four member states examined,” says Teresa Wilmes, program officer for Germany and Europe at terre des hommes. “In Hungary, the fourth member state examined, the detention of refugee minors was only ended because pushbacks already almost completely prevent access to an asylum procedure.”

The consequences for those affected are serious: As a result of incarceration, children and young people often suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and anxiety. The experience of violence against themselves or relatives and friends is also traumatizing for children and young people and often stays with them throughout their lives.

The member states receive support from the EU and its institutions: »The European Union, especially the EU Commission, shares responsibility for the violation of children’s rights at Europe’s external borders. Numerous examples of this can be found in the report: from the European pilot project for border protection in Bulgaria to the EU financing of prison-like facilities in Greece to the role of the EU agency FRONTEX,” explains Sophia Eckert, legal policy advisor at terre des hommes. “Our report shows that the European community has significant influence on whether the protection, well-being and rights of refugee children and young people apply in the EU or should fall victim to a sophisticated isolation policy of the EU member states.”

With a view to the meeting of European interior ministers next week, terre des hommes is calling for a U-turn in the reform of the Common European Asylum System. Sophia Eckert says: “It is illusory that the planned reform proposals will end the problems described in the report. Rather, it is to be feared that the reform will further exacerbate the grievances at Europe’s external borders by giving rights violations a European framework. We therefore call on decision-makers in the EU to stop these unspeakable reform plans. We expect a humane European asylum system to provide access to asylum instead of unlawful deportation, child welfare instead of detention, and fair asylum procedures instead of accelerated border procedures.


Source: terre des hommes