Europe must act together to save refugee children

Regardless of their status as migrants or refugees, all children have specific rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child which must be respected.

European leaders must urgently agree a coordinated and coherent response to the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East that guarantees the protection, wellbeing and rights of children in all countries of transit and arrival, child rights organisation Plan International Ireland today.

While refugees are being warmly welcomed in some EU states, others face hostility and hardship on their journey. Many risk drowning on perilous trips by sea, and then endure a cold welcome as they travel by land. Europe’s leaders must come together to offer safety and humane treatment to those who need it, particularly children.

“It’s deeply disturbing that it took images of drowned children and babies sleeping on railway tracks to shock Europe’s leaders into action,” said Plan International Ireland CEO, David Dalton.

“Some are now responding generously, but this crisis will not be solved until all countries agree to treat refugees humanely and afford them the rights they deserve.”  

“I am concerned for the future of all Syria’s children, but particularly for girls, who are often at highest risk of mistreatment, early and forced marriage and lost educational opportunity when they become refugees,” said Mr Dalton.

As an organisation founded in response to the plight of children orphaned by the Spanish civil war in 1937 Plan International Ireland also calls for a renewed, energetic effort by all states to find a political solution to the Syria conflict and provide a substantial increase in humanitarian assistance to refugee communities in the Middle East.

“The international community must work collectively to achieve sustainable solutions for the long-term settlement of refugees in a response that must go well beyond the shores of Europe,” concluded Mr. Dalton.

With millions of Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, this crisis will not be stemmed by stop-gap policies, intermittent funding, and buck-passing.

Plan International Ireland is directly supporting Syrian refugees in Egypt, with the support of €400,000 from Irish Aid, and with partners it is providing assistance in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The main focus of Plan International Ireland’s response is children’s education and providing support for their emotional needs.

The European Commission is due to unveil a plan for quotas of refugees that each EU country should accept. That plan is being strongly resisted by some states.

Plan International Ireland believes that extra funding for the refugee crisis in Europe must not come at the expense of humanitarian assistance to Syria and neighbouring states, nor risk the development funding vital to securing the future of poorer states.

Due to their age and vulnerability, children can experience extreme challenges when displaced with severe impact on their health, education and overall wellbeing.

Regardless of their status as migrants or refugees, all children have specific rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child which must be respected.

According to the UN a quarter of those seeking refuge in Europe are children. More than 100,000 children have claimed asylum in Europe in the first half of this year. More than 300,000 people have risked their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year and at least 2,600 have died in the attempt.

Plan International Ireland is an independent child rights and humanitarian organisation that works to end poverty among children.

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