15 September 2015  – One day ahead of the extraordinary EU Council Justice and Home Affairs meeting today in Brussels, the German Government decided to close its border with Austria. As a consequence, Germany decided to “breach Schengen” few weeks after “breaching Dublin”. This “marks a significant escalation of the crisis, … which many view as the embodiment of European integration” reports Politico. The Hungarian government is closing its border with Serbia by terminating its “border wall” by 25 September. EU internal borders are closing, putting in deep crisis a pillar of EU integration process. This is the sign of a failure; in EU external policy for peace and development, in EU internal asylum and migration policy. The impact on children is under our eyes.

Children escaping war, violence and poverty die since years during their journey to Europe. Now they face closed borders at the door of Europe and within Europe. They try to seek refuge on a continent unable to ensure their protection and fulfil their basic humanitarian obligations. Instead, European citizens do what European public authorities do not.

The extraordinary EU Council Justice and Home Affairs held 14 September has gone half-way. The Conclusions released publically has been the ones of the Presidency of the European Council, not of the EU Council Justice and Home Affairs Ministers as such. An institutional detail that shows that no formal common agreement among EU Member States has been taken on issues like the reallocation of the announced additional 120.000 refugees, for which just an agreement “in principle” was done.

While we welcome the measures taken to reinforce reception capacities of Greece and in the Balkans, or the increase of EU financial support for Humanitarian Aid around Syrian and neighbouring countries, we again observe the lack of the needed European solution, the priority set on external borders controls and on returns that might cause higher risks of violence and violation of righths for children.

“Justice and Home Affairs Ministers lost an important opportunity to show a dignified and strong Europe yesterday. The increasing number of refugee and migrant children arriving at the door of Europe to seek protection is putting the EU at a crucial turning point on its future. If the extraordinary EU Council Justice and Home Affairs today decide to face the migrant crisis by protecting their national sovereignty and interest instead of adopting a European inclusive migration and asylum plan, the EU will then “close on itself” and to the rest of the world. It will choose to close itself to the challenges and possible benefits of globalisation, including migration and integration of children and youth migrants in our European societies” declared Raffaele K. Salinari, Chair of Terre des Hommes International Federation, ahead of today’s extraordinary EU Council Justice and Home Affairs. Children and youth migrants passing through European borders every day is revealing a deep European crisis and the failure of the EU external aid, development, peace and integration policy.

Cover - EU migrant crisisA child is a child. Full stop! Be he or she migrant or refugee escaping war and violence. And European authorities have the obligation to enable us, as countries, to host, protect, take care, offer basic needs and integration perspectives to such children, wherever they are from, whatever their nationality is, without any discrimination” added Ignacio Packer, Secretary General Terre des Hommes International Federation. We are just reminding the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that must be put in place at any time, in any circumstances, he concluded.

Terre des Hommes and partner’s organisations active in Destination Unknown Campaign further develop their activities on the ground both in Middle-East, North Africa and Europe to provide direct support to children and families. “Migrant and refugee children seeking refuge in Europe are putting in crisis the core pillars of the EU migration policy so far, “Dublin” and now “Shengen” have been de facto breached. National borders are back in Europe. As international humanitarian NGO specialized on protecting children on the move, we were not expecting that migrants themselves would generate such political crisis. We were neither expecting such a huge mobilization from citizens to provide direct help to refugees. Form our side, today, at the margins of an additional EU Council dedicated to the migration crisis, we recall the responsibilities of European political leaders, governments and authorities not only in Europe but in their role in the Middle-East and North Africa, in a Euro-Mediterranean approach.” concluded Salvatore Parata, Head of European Office at Terre des Hommes.

Terre des Hommes and all members of Destination Unknown Campaign five key recommendations to the EU and Member States

We urge the EU and its Members States to:

  1. Save the life of migrant and refugee children and their families by establishing safe and legal ’humanitarian corridors’ from the departure countries
  2. Deliver international protection to all migrant and refugee children in Europe regardless their migration status, nationality, religion, origin or religion.
  3. Ensure international protection measures be based on the views and consent of children, be they unaccompanied or with their families
  4. Support integration paths of migrant and refugee children in host countries by considering integration as an investment today for tomorrow’s for host society
  5. Stop violence against migrant and refugee children through accelerated return procedures to the so called “safe countries”, building fences denying access to EU territory which are de facto a refoulement, detention and use of coercion in fingerprinting process in case of refusal by the child


Read the full Euro-Mediterranean position paper

“The best and worst of Europe” – a joint letter from EPAM Social Platform