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European Committee of Social Rights: separated children have the right to adequate shelter and legal protection in country of arrival

26 June 2018

On 15 June 2018, the European Committee of Social Rights (the Committee) delivered a decision on the case between the European Committee for Home-Based Priority Action for the Child and the Family (EUROCEF) against France.

Short background of the case
Separated children are taken to waiting areas upon their arrival in France. Children who are assessed as minors by the authorities are provided with shelter, others are left without protection. The provision of shelter falls short of minimum social, educational and sanitary standards. Some separated children are forced to live with adults. Sometimes, bone density analysis is used to assess the age of separated children. Between the age of 16 and 18 they have difficulties accessing education. Due to lack of interpreters, separated children are not informed of their rights and accessible procedures.

The decision
EUROCEF alleges that France does not respect the rights of separated children to economic, legal and social protection, when referring to the implementation of national shelter, age assessment and the allocation system of separated children. The best interests of the child are not being served. The French government states it is constantly improving reception and care. In the case of continuous doubts, medical examinations including bone and dental x-rays and clinical and psychological examinations, may be ordered to assess their age, with the permission of a legal guardian. If asylum requests are found inadmissible, detention in waiting areas can be terminated. The government has not contested that some separated children are accommodated in hotels.

The Committee states that detention of separated children in waiting areas and hotels are inappropriate accommodation for children, as support by properly trained personnel or access to basic, educational and social services is not provided. Separated children, living on the streets, at risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation, have no access to health care. Age assessments through bone examinations violate the dignity and physical integrity of separated children. These are unreliable and prone to error. The right to education of separated children age 16 and older is undermined, eliminating their chance to achieve social, professional integration in France and regularising their status. Most separated children in France are 16 and older. Separated children have to be appointed a legal representative and guardian and be provided with remedies available and access to rights. The Committee recommends that France “adopt the necessary measures” including legal measures to avoid the detention of children in waiting areas and to find appropriate solutions to this in terms of accommodation in line with the non-refoulment obligations.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org