This week, an extensive guidance on respective children’s rights in return policies and practices was published by UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Save the Children, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Child Circle.
The document provides guidance for state authorities on the design and implementation of return procedures that are child rights compliant. In particular, it sets out concrete measures necessary to ensure respect for the rights of every child, including children in families, when implementing return legislation and policy in Europe. It provides guidance to bring policy and legislation in line with international law obligations, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the EU Return Directive where applicable. Accordingly, the guidance is targeting those designing and implementing return procedures.
The guidance is based upon the existing legal and policy framework, including the EU Return Directive and the revised Return Handbook. It also takes account of recommendations and actions in the 2010 – 2014 EU Action Plan on unaccompanied minors, and Commission Communication on the protection of children in migration of 12 April 2017. The guidance has been developed through a process of consultations, first among United Nations agencies and civil society experts on migration and children’s rights, and then with EU agencies, the European Commission and member state representatives. It aims to serve as the basis for dialogue with state authorities in the context of EU return procedures from EU member states, complementing the 2017 revised Return Handbook.
The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them. The precondition to any return of a child – whether unaccompanied, separated or within a family – is that their best interests have been examined and return is found to be in their best interests. This requires specific procedures to be implemented in every decision making process that could lead to the return of a child. Consequently, this guidance addresses how to design these procedures, what factors should be considered, possible outcomes and how to implement a decision when return is found to be in the best interests of the child. It does not address how to implement the decision when an alternative durable solution is found to be in the best interests of the child as a result of the procedure.