President urges society to vote for MEPs who uphold child protection
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca is urging society to invest in a European Parliament by voting for politicians who can deliver a meaningful reform of child protection systems.
“We are passing through very challenging times in the political life of our European Union, and with the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, we must, as civil society, support politicians who share our values to be brave, to uphold child protection, including the protection of migrating children,” she urged.
The President was speaking at the end of the third edition of the Lost in Migration conference, organised by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and Missing Children Europe over three days at the Malta Valletta Campus.
She called on society not to remain complacent in the face of hate speech and populist rhetoric but to be brave and push for action against exclusionary tactics.
Children were among the most vulnerable in this present climate, she said, expressing concern at the shrinking protection space for children in migration.
“We must continue to endeavour in synergy and solidarity to ensure that the unfortunate missing generation of migrant children — who have been exposed to the promises of our democratic way of life but were not given the proper protection on our soils — does not grow bigger,” the President said.
According to the European Migration Network’s latest report more than 30,000 unaccompanied children went missing between 2014 and 2017.
To reduce the risks to which children are exposed, high-level European, UN and African representatives, experts, frontline professionals and young advocates present at the conference looked beyond Europe towards the child’s full migratory journey because protection had to start as soon as a child left their home, at every stage of the journey.
Dr Ruth Farrugia, director general of the President’s Foundation, stressed the importance of looking into what happens to children before getting to Europe and the dangers to which they were increasingly exposed in third countries due to the intensification of migration control measures.
“The President’s Foundation will continue to create safe spaces for African and European NGOs, as well as stakeholders to discuss practical solutions for the protection of children in migration,” she said.
Aagje Ieven, secretary general of Missing Children Europe, said: “It is time to ensure that national asylum and child protection systems work, through compliance with existing asylum and human rights law. Europe must work to build long-term individual care plans with children themselves. In this way, children’s best interests are central in every decision impacting their future.”
The conference ended with key recommendations to improve the situation of children in migration. Some of the priorities highlighted included changing the narrative and discourse around migration, especially children in migration, towards one of empathy, support and protection of human rights.
Children, according to the recommendations, should have access to child-friendly procedures and information, be swiftly appointed a qualified, trained and independent guardian; and be supported to move safely from one country to another when it is in their best interest, for example in cases of family reunification.
Data recording and management for children in migration including missing children and children at risk of trafficking should be done in a harmonised and systematic way.
President Coleiro Preca closed by saying: “Civil society across Europe must be strong advocates and pillars of strength on which a more hopeful future for unaccompanied migrant children can be built.