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On the 60th anniversary of the European Union, providing strong protection and abundant opportunities for child migrants and refugees appears to be extremely far down the bloc’s to-do list.

That’s why three child refugees, currently displaced in Egypt, have recorded both their hopes and fears for the Destination Unknown campaign – demonstrating how other child refugees treated so terribly by the EU share the same ambitions as any European child.

From doctors to footballers, dreams of travel to memories of Syria, Salman, Amged and Yaza are like most other children. Yet the EU has decided to treat kids in Europe like them as if they were convicts.

Children are already being incarcerated in almost all EU countries because of their migration status. In some cases kids traveling alone are being detained alongside adults – breaking international conventions designed to protect children that all EU countries have signed up to.

The European Commission may be spending its anniversary revelling in the prestige of the celebrations in Rome. But instead of governing by the ideals the EU was founded upon in 1957, the Commission is instead encouraging Member States to lock up vulnerable children while their migration status is determined.

In detention, the dreams of children like those speaking in these videos quickly evaporate. They are replaced with devastating mental distress, with kids as young as nine self-harming and 12-year-olds filming themselves attempting suicide to escape the uncertainty of being indefinitely locked up in squalid detention centres.

A recent report by the Council of Europe also concluded that if the EU continues its current trajectory of undermining rather than protecting the rights of child migrants and refugees – these children will be driven into the arms of radicalisation rather than inspired to follow their ambitions.

Rather than violating the rights of children on the move by keeping them behind bars, the EU should instead allow child migrants and refugees to live with families or guardians within larger communities, where they can come and go as they please.

For the moment, Salman, Amged and Yaza’s dreams have a chance of becoming a reality. But the EU’s migration policies could turn these dreams to despair, or allow them to be manipulated by extremists.

Rather than risk alienating and neglecting an entire generation of children seeking safety, the EU must truly display the European values present 60 years ago, and give the dreams these kids possess the best chance of becoming a reality.

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