Europe still not a save haven for refugee children

Europe still struggles greatly to become a safe haven for migrant children who are travelling alone. Ignoring all previous agreements, France sent children back to Italy earlier in the year. Some children are seen as adults and treated as such. Children do not receive separate safe places, but are forced to sleep in the same place as adults they do not know. Terre des Hommes helps children claim their rights.

Humanitarian aid / Refugees

In total 16.348 single traveling children registered in Italy. This number continued to grow on a monthly basis. In the first five months of this year alone, 9.323 children arrived without a guardian
in Italy. Although the flow of migrants has declined since August, Europe is still struggling to offer adequate security and care to children without parents or family which are already there.

Continuing travelling on their own

Because asylum procedures take a long time and there is a lot of uncertainty about the chances that children get, some choose not to wait and to continue their journey on their own. And traveling to
Northern Europe is not an easy task. During their journey to the north of Europe they are more vulnerable to exploitation. When they fall into the wrong hands, they are forced to work hard for
low wages, sometimes even in prostitution. Others at times are sent back to where they came from.

Sent back

A staggering example of this is the story of two children from Eritrea, aged sixteen and seventeen, who were registered in France and legally stayed in a shelter in Nice. They were brought to the
border and forced to take the train to the Italian city of Ventimiglia.

Ignoring the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Terre des Hommes came into action immediately and called for assistance from two French lawyers. The French authorities were reminded of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which clearly states that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members”. Thanks to the cooperation between Terre des Hommes and the two French lawyers, the children could return to France.

Every member state is responsible

France has not only ignored the Convention of the Rights of the Child, but also acts in violation of the Dublin Convention. This requires that every member state itself should be able to handle an
asylum application. France can not simply return this responsibility to Italy, which is under enormous pressure due to the many years of migrants arriving.


Terre des Hommes shelters children in Italy, carries out medical checks and offers psychological and legal assistance and language and play activities. The psychological support is indispensable
for children. They have often made a long journey, confronted with violence, such as murder of relatives or friends, rape, abduction and torture, forced child labour and fights on the boat when
crossing the Mediterranean. They often have trouble sleeping, have nightmares and have physical injuries due to the violence they suffered.

Extra finance for shelter in Italy

In addition to practical support, Terre des Hommes is lobbying for help from the rest of Europe to handle the many asylum applications in Italy. This seems to be successful; the European Union
has announced early last month to release additional funds for Italian shelter of migrants.

Destination Unknown

These Terre des Hommes activities are part of the international Destination Unknown campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to protect refugee children. Terre des Hommes performs more
than one hundred projects in fifty different countries.

Learn more about Destination Unknown >>

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