Children seeking asylum are being put in danger by an EU regulation which allows them to be rebounded from one country to another, claims the Refugee Council.
Supporting an open letter from the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) calling on governments to urgently reform the EU ‘Dublin II’ regulation, the Refugee Council says the policy has put children at risk and can deny them a fair hearing of their asylum claim.
Under the Dublin II Regulation, if an asylum seeker has passed through or made an asylum claim in an EU country en route to the UK, they can be sent back to that country irrespective of how they will be treated on return, or whether they have any meaningful links there.
In practice this means that children are sent back to other countries from the UK even when they have extended family members here. Children can also be sent back to a country such as Greece which is likely to treat them as having abandoned any previous asylum claim and send them straight back to their country of origin, regardless of the risks they will face there.
Gemma Juma, International Protection Manager at the Refugee Council said that although the system sounds logical, in practice it has caused a lot of distress.
“If you are an unaccompanied child seeking refuge, it is very hard to know what you are meant to do and where you are meant to go. We have come across children with extended family in the UK who are being flown back to the country where they first entered the EU against their will – but what happens to them when they get there?
“These are children we are talking about. They are often frightened, confused and desperately trying to find their way to safety so that they can rebuild their lives. Wherever possible, families should be kept together and we should never transfer children unless it is in their best interests.”
Refugee assisting organisations from 30 European countries have signed an open letter to Franco Frattini, European Commissioner. For details see www.ecre.org
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