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Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Date 16 September, 2021
Category UN Submission

Today the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child opens a two day session on “Children’s Rights and Alternative Care”. This general discussion is aimed at tackling “the current situation regarding alternative care in its complexity, identify and discuss particular areas of concern with regard to the unnecessary separation of children from their families and appropriate ways to respond to family and child separation in cases where it is unavoidable”. The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) is sharing here a submission made to the Committee outlining the rights violations carried out against children during pushbacks and the denial of access to alternative care. This submission builds of extensive field data and research gathered by BVMN and responds to the concept note issued by the Committee. 

BVMN is a coalition of organisations working to document illegal pushbacks, collective expulsions and police violence along the EU’s external borders since the network’s formulation in 2016. Our reporting countries include Croatia,  Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. The collection of data on illegal pushbacks and police violence is done by a consortium of independent field volunteers who are part of or cooperate with humanitarian support groups united through the BVMN. 

Summary of findings

BVMN attests that pushbacks often result in unnecessary separation of children from their families. Moreover, when children are already unavoidably separated, as is the case with unaccompanied minors, pushbacks systematically and by design, deny children the right to access procedures, thus hindering their access to family reunification processes, appropriate protection systems and deny them their right to “be provided with alternative care”. 

BVMN first demonstrates that pushbacks separate families and, due to the level of violence and inhuman treatment used, damage families’ abilities to care for children. BVMN then details how pushbacks deny children access to procedure, including family reunification processes and protection mechanisms. Finally BVMN will highlight that pushbacks often include arbitrary detention. BVMN identifies pushbacks as a root cause and driver of family separation and an inhumane and illegal response to children who have been unavoidably separated.

Some of the key issues raised include:

Pushbacks disrupting intact families through separation and death

Death to family members

Torture, trauma and the inability to fulfil familial care responsibilities

Subsequent long-lasting impacts, including trauma and PTSD

Identification of unaccompanied or separated children and access to procedure

Use of extralegal detention of minors during pushbacks

  • BVMN’s Recommendations:

The EU border monitoring mechanism strengthens “national and cross-border child protection systems that have the capacity to assess the unique needs of vulnerable children and families, determine the best interests of the child, make referrals to local resources ”.

State parties refrain from implementing any measures, including pushbacks, that adversely affect the best interest of children, especially within the context of migration and border control.

If a child is travelling unaccompanied or in the company of adults, the child’s best interest takes precedence over a States migration management objectives. 

Children-on-the-move, whether they be unaccompanied, separated or with family, are identified and granted access to essential services and protection mechanisms. 

Appropriate legislative mechanisms are fully implemented to prevent forced separation of migrants and refugees. 

To ensure family unity, the practice of pushbacks must be immediately ceased. 

The Border Violence Monitoring Network respectfully recommends that the Committee implement a future Day of General Discussion on the rights of children-on-the-move. We cordially suggest this includes, but is not limited to, the issue of the pushback, collective expulsion and refoulement of children.

(Title illustration by Hannah Kirmes-Daly)