78 Unaccompanied minors |
+ ADD 1
|Commission Communication: Action Plan on unaccompanied minors (2010-14)|
Commission staff working document: Annex I, overview of relevant EU policy and legislation and the main requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child; and Annex II, bibliography
|Document originated||6 May 2010
|Deposited in Parliament||25 May 2010
|Basis of consideration||EM of 28 May 2010
|Previous Committee Report||None
|Discussed in Council||3-4 June 2010
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
78.1 The EU has adopted extensive legislation on asylum and immigration.
It includes provisions which are specific to children as well
as general provisions which apply to children and adults alike.
The legislation is summarised in the Commission staff working
document at ADD 1 of the Commission's Communication.
78.2 For the purposes of the Communication, the Commission
defines unaccompanied minors as people under the age of 18 who
arrive in a Member State unaccompanied by a responsible adult
or who are left unaccompanied after they have entered EU territory.
78.3 In December 2009, the European Council adopted
the Stockholm Programme. It sets out the EU's priorities and intentions
on justice and home affairs for the next five years. Section 2.3.2
of the Programme calls upon the Commission to identify measures,
to which the EU can bring added value, to promote the rights of
the child, including unaccompanied minors.
78.4 In section 6.1.7 of the Stockholm Programme,
the European Council welcomes the Commission's intention to:
"develop an action plan, to be adopted by the
Council, on unaccompanied minors which underpins and supplements
the relevant legislative and financial instruments and combines
measures directed at prevention, protection and assisted return.
The action plan should underline the need for cooperation with
countries of origin, including cooperation to facilitate the return
of minors, as well as to prevent further departures. The action
plan should also examine practical measures to facilitate the
return of the high number of unaccompanied minors that [sic]
do not require international protection, while recognising that
the best interests for many may be their reunion with their families
and development in their own social and cultural environment."
78.5 This document contains the Action Plan to which
the Stockholm Programme refers.
78.6 The Commission says that unaccompanied minors
are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It believes that
a common EU approach to their needs is necessary. It should be
based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
78.7 At present, the statistics on unaccompanied
minors in the EU are neither comprehensive nor comparable. In
2007, 8,030 applications for asylum were made by unaccompanied
minors in 22 Member States; the comparable figure for 2008 was
11,292, an increase of 40%. But it is not known how many unaccompanied
minors have not applied for asylum and are living in the EU without
leave to do so.
78.8 Following consultations with Member States,
non-governmental organisations and others, the Commission proposes
an Action Plan to:
- secure the production, collection
and analysis of comprehensive, reliable and comparable data on
- prevent trafficking in minors and unsafe migration
by unaccompanied minors;
- improve the reception and protection of unaccompanied
- improve both the assessment of the age of unaccompanied
young people who claim to be minors and the tracing of family
members in countries of origin; and
- find durable solutions based on an assessment
of what would be in the best interests of the individual child.
78.9 The Plan sets out the action the Commission
considers necessary achieve each of these aims. Paragraphs 78.10-78.15
below illustrate the proposals.
78.10 The Commission proposes, for example, that
data on unaccompanied minors should be improved through, among
other things, the exchange of information between Member States
in the framework of the European Asylum Support Office and the
European Migration Network. The Plan invites the European Asylum
Support Office to collect data and develop country of origin information
relevant to the assessment of the need for protection of unaccompanied
78.11 The Commission proposes that trafficking in
minors and unsafe migration should be prevented by, for example,
the use of EU's and Member States' existing expenditure programmes
to support activities in third countries to counter trafficking,
protect children from violence and develop birth registration
and child protection systems.
78.12 The Commission notes that the existing EU legislation
on asylum seekers does not provide illegally resident immigrants
and victims of trafficking with consistent standards of reception
and assistance. For example, at present Member States are required
to provide personal representatives only to unaccompanied minors
who are seeking asylum. In the Commission's view, all unaccompanied
minors should be entitled to representatives with the same functions
and powers. Moreover, Member States should ensure that unaccompanied
minors sever any contact they may have had with traffickers or
smugglers; and that unaccompanied minors should be placed in accommodation
which is appropriate to their needs. The Action Plan says that
the asylum and immigration legislation should be revised to achieve
these aims. It also invites FRONTEX to include in its training
of border guards a module on how to detect unaccompanied minors
and other particularly vulnerable people. 
78.13 The Commission says that, to improve age assessment
and the tracing of family members, it will, for example, issue
Best Practice Guidance on assessment and encourage Member States
to adopt a common approach to the tracing of family members.
78.14 The Commission says that the durable solutions
for unaccompanied minors should be:
- return to and reintegration
in the country of origin; or
- grant of international protection or another
legal status, paving the way for the unaccompanied minor to become
integrated in the host Member State; or
In the Commission's view, it is often in the best
interests of unaccompanied minors for them to be reunited with
their families in their countries of origin or transit. So the
Action Plan encourages Member States to develop partnerships with
countries of origin and transit and, for example, to fund education,
training and re-integration projects.
78.15 The Action Plan also says that, where an unaccompanied
minor is granted asylum or other leave to remain, Member States
should, for example, make full use of the European Refugee Fund
and the Fund for the Integration of third-county nationals. The
Commission will encourage Member States to make maximum use of
the Refugee Fund to support the resettlement in third countries
of unaccompanied minors who are refuges.
78.16 The Commission plans to report in 2012 and
by 2015 on the implementation of the Action Plan.
The Government's view
78.17 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 28 May, the
Minister for Immigration at the Home Office (Damian Green) tells
"The Action Plan has no policy implications
for the UK. Like most EU countries, the United Kingdom does not
return unaccompanied minors to their countries of origin unless
safe arrangements can be made for their reception and care. The
difficulty in tracing parents and the lack of suitable national
care systems in many of the countries the children come from makes
this difficult to achieve. The Government will examine carefully
any case put forward for strengthening legislative measures aimed
at enhancing support and care systems for the minors while they
are in the EU Member States. Such measures may, however, have
limited applicability to the United Kingdom given that unaccompanied
minors receive the same care and support under children's legislation
as any other child in need."
78.18 We share the concern of the European Council
and Commission about unaccompanied minors who have entered the
EU illegally or in search of asylum. They are vulnerable and should
receive appropriate care and protection. They are not evenly distributed
across the UK and their number is not known. So it is difficult
for local authorities to make the plans necessary to meet their
needs for education, housing and social services.
78.19 It seems to us that the Commission's Action
Plan contains some useful practical proposals. The Plan outlines
a few proposals for new EU legislation. If the proposals are made,
they will come to us for scrutiny and we shall reserve comment
until we see them. Meanwhile, we have no questions to put to the
Minister and we are content to clear the Action Plan from scrutiny
with this short report to draw the document to the attention of
340 Stockholm Programme, page 68 (17024/09). Back
FRONTEX is the EU agency for the coordination of operational cooperation
between Member States at their external borders. Back
Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, paragraph 15. Back