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Protecting undocumented children: Promising policies and practices from governments

Across Europe there are laws, policies and practices that fail to protect – or even directly violate – the rights of migrant children. While there are important protection frameworks for some groups of migrant children – such as asylum-seeking, unaccompanied, or trafficked children - the rights of undocumented children, particularly those accompanied by their parents or other caregivers, are largely unprotected, resulting in systematic and daily human rights violations. There are no reliable estimates on the number of undocumented children in the EU, a situation that compounds the inadequate attention given to the protection of these children.

Child rights are enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union and Fundamental Rights Charter, and all European Union (EU) member states have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Despite this legal framework that establishes that all children must enjoy equal protection of rights, regardless of their or their parent’s administrative status, undocumented children face restrictions on access to services, protection and justice as a result of restrictive laws, policies and practices. They are subjected to immigration enforcement, including detention and deportation, in violation of their rights.

Within this overall context, there are many governments implementing laws and practices aiming to protect the rights of undocumented children. Focusing on the areas of education, health care, protection from violence and non-detention, this report seeks to support and disseminate such policies, by presenting several promising examples from governments at all levels, alongside some available data and relevant policy documents at EU level.