EU leaders forgot the rights of children on the move at Malta summit

Despite 181,000 people travelling across the Central Mediterranean route last year – including thousands of children – EU leaders in Malta today confirmed their intention to strengthen the walls of Fortress Europe. The European Council ditched European values by whitewashing over human rights concerns, putting guarding borders above the needs of people fleeing danger.

Over 20,000 unaccompanied children crossed the Mediterranean to Italy last year. Yet leaders meeting in Malta failed to provide the protection these children desperately need.

Once again, guaranteeing the rights of children on the move was not even mentioned at the summit, and the human rights of those making the trip were simply a disclaimer. Instead, the European Council drove through a plan to return migrants and refugees to war-torn Libya – despite the United Nations recently documenting the torture, murder and degrading treatment they are suffering in the country.

Instead, securitisation is the order of the day. Rather than safeguarding children’s and migrants’ rights, European leaders opted for an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach and outsourced their responsibilities to Libya – despite being fully aware of the hideous conditions in the detention centres they are sending migrants into.

The UN, NGOs and other agencies have worked together to produce nine principles to influence policies applying to children affected by migration. They state that the best interests of the child should always come first – something EU leaders must prioritise when deciding on the fates of children on the move.

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