Treatment of minors, especially unaccompanied minors, at the French-British border

Treatment of minors, especially unaccompanied minors, at the French-British border

On 23 September 2020, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Anne-Sophie Pelletier of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“For the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2019, Parliament wanted to emphasise the rights of all children, with a particular focus on those most at risk, including migrants.

However, at the French-British border, the treatment of children is nothing short of inhumane. In Calais and Grande-Synthe, many minors find themselves without long-term or even acceptable accommodation. The case of unaccompanied minors is even more worrying, as these highly vulnerable children are not adequately cared for.

The European Court of Human Rights has criticised France on many occasions for its ‘degrading treatment’ of exiles at Calais, most notably following a complaint by an Afghan minor in 2019. Although the EU claims to defend human rights and the rights of the child, it appears to sanction a lack of water, food and shelter, as well as exposure to sexual violence.

Does the Commission intend to enforce the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the French-British border?

Will the Commission require France to comply with ECHR decisions and, most importantly, provide shelter for unaccompanied minors and families?”

On 19 January 2021, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:

“Under the Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33EU), Member States have the obligation to provide an adequate standard of living to applicants for international protection, including accommodation or financial support for securing accommodation, taking into account the specific accommodation needs of vulnerable applicants such as unaccompanied children. These legal guarantees are valid for third-country nationals who apply for international protection.

Many of the third-country nationals who seek to cross the French-British border do not apply for international protection in France or in another Member State.

They are therefore subject to the provisions of the EU Return Directive (2008/115/EC). The latter establishes that, while the basic conditions of subsistence of third-country nationals who are staying illegally but who cannot yet be removed should be defined according to national legislation, Member States must nevertheless provide to those migrants basic safeguards (such as emergency healthcare, access to education for the children and special care for vulnerable persons).

Moreover, regardless of their legal status, unaccompanied migrant children must be guaranteed access to fundamental rights in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all Member States have ratified.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union applies to Member States when they are implementing EC law and the Commission is ensuring its respect within the remit of its competence. The Commission maintains an open dialogue with the French authorities on matters related to the ongoing reforms of the French asylum and reception systems.”


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