Conference on Promoting Good Practices in Protecting Migrant and Asylum Seeking Children, especially Unaccompanied children, and Finding Solutions for the Children, Families, Societies and States

On the 8th and 9th of December, representatives from 26 European countries gathered in Stockholm sharing lessons learned about safeguards and services for migrant and asylum seeking children, adolescents and young people, especially those who are unaccompanied. The participants represented national governments, UN Agencies, international and local organisations as well as children and young people. They discussed good practices and challenges in a complex reality where many European countries are both countries of origin, transit and/or destination.

The situation of children during the migration process is an important concern for the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the conclusions from the meeting will guide the work of the two regional organisations and their partners in 2017 and beyond.  A detailed report was developed summarising the presentations and discussions.

At the meeting, the CBSS Guidelines Promoting the Human Rights and the Best Interests of the Child in Transnational Child Protection Cases were officially launched.

Ambassador Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson, Chair of The Icelandic Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Ambassador Miloš Prica, Coordinator of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency of the Central European Initiative, and Mr. Ugo Poli, Project Manager at Central European Initiative Executive Secretariat, met on the side-lines of the conference. They took note of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two regional organisations and discussed future cooperation on the themes of sustainable development, science cooperation, trafficking in human beings, and children at risk. The Icelandic Ambassador to Sweden, H.E. Ms Estrid Brekkan, kindly hosted a reception for the conference at her residence.

The Nordic Barnahus (Children’s House) model was recommended as a good practice in the Conclusions from the meeting. The model offers comprehensive multi-disciplinary and interagency services under one roof and is increasingly used for child victims of trafficking and unaccompanied children. In a child-friendly environment, the professionals at the Barnahus collect evidence through forensic interviews and medical examinations, and offer case assessment and treatment. All processes are documented to secure evidence that informs the asylum procedure or other relevant proceedings, is admissible at court and holds a high probative value.

The presentations and discussions at the meeting revealed many other good examples of how it is possible to transform challenges into opportunities for social inclusion and cohesion. Investments in the wellbeing and development of migrant and asylum seeking children can support their participation and integration and activate their potentials to contribute to peaceful, stable and prosperous societies in countries of destination and origin.

Meeting report

The Stockholm Conclusions Promoting Good Practices in Protecting Migrant and Asylum Seeking Children, especially Unaccompanied Children, and Finding Solutions for the Children, Families, Societies and States – December 2016




 Protecting Unaccompanied Children

Welcome and introduction of participants
Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson, Ambassador, Icelandic Presidency, Council of the Baltic Sea States
Milos Prica, Ambassador, BiH Presidency of Central European Initiative
Bernd Hemingway, Deputy Director General of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat
Ugo Poli, CEI Executive Secretariat, focal point migration

Opening speech
Sara Roxell,  Political Advisor to the Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality,Sweden           

Session 1: Moderated by Turid Heiberg, Head of Children at Risk Unit, Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat

Recommendations from unaccompanied children. Hamza Ibrahim, Chair of the Association for Unaccompanied Children, Sweden

Action plan for migrant and refugee children including unaccompanied children in Europe. Cagri Cakir, Office of the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Council of Europe           

Good migration governance as a tool to empower migrant youth and prevent exploitation: the OSCE/OCEEA experience. Teresa Albano, Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities

Challenges and good practices in the reception of unaccompanied children – Perspectives from Norway. Professor Berit Berg, Department of Social Work and Health Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Supporting sustainable return in safety and dignity: European Red Cross Return Initiative, a joint initiative involving the Red Cross in UK, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Ewa Jonsson, Senior adviser, Swedish Red Cross

Reception and buffet in the Icelandic Embassy hosted by Ambassador Brekkan.

Session 2: Moderated by Ms Gisela Thater, Senior Regional Legal Officer, UNHCR

Protecting the safety and needs of children in reception, accommodation, care and integration: Considerations and solution
Ms Karin Fagerholm, Lawyer, the Ombudsman for Children in Sweden
Ms Lisa Wolfsegger, Director, Asylum-coordination, Austria
Mr Pippo Costella, Director, Defence for Children, Italy
Mr Bragi Guðbrandsson, Director, National Child Protection Authority, Iceland

Session 3: Moderated by Ugo Poli, Project Manager, Central European Initiative

Challenges and good practices for transit countries in protecting unaccompanied children
Mr Jovan Andonovski, Deputy Ombudsman, Macedonia
Mr Rados Djurovic, Executive Director, Asylum Protection Center, Serbia (Including the referenced recommendations)
Ms Anesa Agovic, Director Center for Social Research, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Katja Vukotić, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare  Montenegro

Protecting unaccompanied children abroad: The perspectives of countries of origin on transnational cooperation in child protection cases
Ms Tanya Stihari, Child Rights Information Center, Moldova
Mr Altin Hazizaj, Director, Children’s Human Right’s Centre, Albania
Mr Radoslav Stamenkov, Head of Office, IOM, Bulgaria
Mr Mihai Sebe, Project Coordinator, European Institute of Romania

Session 5: Moderated by Maia Rusakova, Director, Stellit, Russia

Feedback from unaccompanied children

Discussing and adopting the conclusions from the conference

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