Protection and care for children during rescue and transfer operations; the need to ban child refugee and migrant children detention; more efforts to step up international protection for every child in fear of being persecuted; the need to train all staff in contact with children and their families; new measures to prevent the separation of children from their parents; protection against abuse, violence, exploitation and trafficking, with the best interests of the child at the heart of all decisions regarding children arriving in Europe, regardless of whether they apply for asylum or not.

These are some of the recommendations contained in the “Palermo Call for Action” listing ten priorities for the protection of the rights of refugee and migrant children within hotspots, identification points and other measures introduced by the EU Agenda on migration. The call for action was discussed in a roundtable with the participation of hotspots operators, civil society organisations and institutions, invited in Palermo by the Co-chair of the Intergroup on children’s rights of the European Parliament and the Italian National Committee for UNICEF.

Refugee and migrant flows to Europe are at unprecedented levels: to date, about one million people, a third of which are children undertook a dangerous journey to Europe. The dimension of the crisis is a major challenge in particular for States crossed by the main migration routes. The impact on children is extremely heavy, as many children lost their lives, or their parents; all of them had to leave their homes and communities. 2015 was a year that has seen hundreds of thousands of children and their families migrate, in an odyssey of hope through Europe.

“UNICEF has organized this first meeting to discuss the specific protection needs of children in the context of the EU agenda on migration” – said Paolo Rozera, Executive Director of UNICEF Italy – “and to make specific proposals in order strengthen the common commitment of institutions and organizations engaged in the protection of refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe.”

In May 2015, the European Union launched the European Agenda on migration that includes 6 immediate action in response to the “human tragedy in the Mediterranean”: joint operations to save lives at sea, reinforced actions to counter trafficking in persons, a common approach to the relocation and resettlement, partnership with third countries and an approach based on “hotspots”.

“The establishment of hotspots – said Caterina Chinnici, Co-President of the Intergroup on children’s rights – is critical for the registration, recognition and eventual repatriation of children. Therefore, it is extremely important that at the early stage all necessary measures are taken to ensure full respect for the fundamental rights of each migrant with particular attention to children.”

The full text of the Palermo call is available here.

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