The two-day expert meeting of the Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum took place on 21-22 October 2015 in Kyiv and was co-hosted by Ukraine and Sweden. The representatives of the EU Member States and agencies such as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Eastern Partnership countries, academia and such international organizations as IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, and the Danish Refugee Council, gathered in the Ukrainian capital to compare their policies and practices in relation to the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
Although the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum varies throughout the EU Member States and is relatively small in the Eastern partners, the subject remains of a crucial importance for every country, since it concerns children in a very vulnerable condition. Unaccompanied children seeking asylum require special support and special care at all stages of asylum procedure, as well as in case of return.
The experts from different fields (case workers, researchers, policy makers) had an open and thoughtful discussion about protection of minors seeking asylum, ensuring their rights and addressing the child-specific needs throughout the asylum procedure. Moreover, the participants had a chance to exercise their knowledge during the interactive case study sessions under the supervision of the experts.
The Ms. Johanna Peyron from the Ministry of Justice of Sweden reported on the dramatically increasing number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, whereas Ms. Nataliia Naumenko from the State Migration Service of Ukraine highlighted state’s efforts to build effective reception system for such children despite relatively low number of them.
UNHCR underlined that identification of a durable solutions and addressing child-specific needs is a key. The European Commission describing the legal framework for the subject presented the EU Reference Document on Unaccompanied Children, as a comprehensive, user friendly, compilation of all related policy and legislation document on unaccompanied children in asylum procedure.
Belgium, Moldova, Ukraine and Sweden have shared their national approaches to the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. Challenges of the age assessment procedures and influence of child’s memory on credibility assessment, as well as the family tracing practices and return of unaccompanied children were also in focus. Controversies with determination of the best interest of the child, which is crucial for securing children’s rights, was a keynote of many presentations.