Call to the EU: Don’t Make Decisions Without Listening To Children in Migration

Brussels – 9 December 2021- Missing Children Europe and the Malta Foundation for Wellbeing of Society kick off the 5th edition of the Lost in Migration Conference – A Seat at the Table – where young newcomers will drive discussions with high-level European and national policy makers on going missing in migration.

The Lost in Migration Conference comes timely after the recent humanitarian crisis between the EU and Belarus and the death of 27 people, including 3 children, in the channel, stressing the need for more political attention on the protection and rights of children in migration.

Today children and young people share their experiences of the EU’s migration and asylum policies and how they led to them going missing in Europe. It follows a series of local workshops (‘hubs’) led by young people across 7 European cities (Valletta, Berlin, Bad Homburg, Naples, Palermo, Antwerp and Athens). The outcomes of the local hubs will be published later today.

A seat at the table: we need to listen to young newcomers

The voices of marginalised children, in particular children in migration, are often absent from policy making. “[Children] feel alone in this world, nobody [is] supporting [them], nobody [is] caring about [them]. They are heartbroken”, said one young person at the Malta hub. When young newcomers feel unsupported, live in poor conditions and see no opportunities for their future, they often flee as they seek a better life.

Extremely slow and complex procedures for asylum applications and family reunification, poor reception conditions and negative experiences with services and authorities are some of the reasons why young people go missing in migration. During the conference, more stories will be shared by young newcomers, including the role of smugglers – often the only source of information or means to travel across the EU, due to the lack of safe legal routes.

Young people want decision makers to listen to their opinion on decisions that will affect their lives. “If you’re going to make policies about me, and other young people and children, I would like to be involved in the process,” said Omar, 19 years old, from the Antwerp Hub.

Earlier this year the European Commission adopted the first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child to better ensure that the rights of the child are promoted across all policies and laws. It particularly highlights that the “vulnerability of children in the migration context requires additional and targeted protection and support.”

According to Lost in Europe, over 18, 000 children have gone missing since arriving in Europe between 2018-2020, equivalent to nearly 17 children a day. Data from 116 000 hotline show that only 43% of cases opened in 2020 concerning children in migration resulted in finding a child, and in over half of these cases the child was not found within the year.

Today, we will hear from children and young newcomers about children going missing in migration. We call on the EU and Member States to put the protection and rights of children at the heart of EU migration policy, including the negotiations on the Pact of Migration and the response to the humanitarian crisis at the EU’s borders.

The rights of the child are embedded at the core of the EU policy, from Article 3 of the Treaty of the European Union to Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. But laws mean nothing if we cannot implement them in practice. Children and young people need decision makers to listen to their opinion on decisions that will affect their lives.”

– Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe

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About Missing Children Europe

Missing Children Europe is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children, representing 31 organisations from 27 European countries. We provide the link between research, policies and organisations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing.

About the Malta Foundation for Wellbeing of Society

The Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society is a non-governmental organisation located in Malta, focusing on social research, community consultation, and project work. The Foundation was established on 25 June 2014 by HE Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, during her term as the 9th President of Malta.

Information about children in migration going missing in the EU

Across the continent, thousands of children in migration go missing every year. Migrant children are considered missing when they are registered with state authorities and go missing from the reception/accommodation centres provided for them. Data provided by Lost in Europe estimates that at least 18,292 refugee children have disappeared from asylum seekers’ centres in Europe between 2018 and 2020. The actual figure is probably much higher and recent developments are putting children increasingly at risk.

The Lost in Migration Conference

Since 2017, the Lost in Migration conference has brought together young newcomers, professionals, and European policy makers to discuss migration-related issues that affect children and young people and that lead them to go missing. Find out more:


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