Posted Apr 21, 2021

Destination Unknown on the new EU Strategy on child rights

Destination Unknown welcomes the new EU Strategy on child rights, including its child-friendly version, and calls on the EU to listen to children and act on their views

The European Commission launched last month its first comprehensive EU Strategy on Children's rights and reaffirmed the protection and promotion of the rights of the child as a core objective of the European Union’s work. The strategy’s overarching ambition is to build the best possible life for children in the European Union and across the globe and ensure that all children can play a leading role in society. 

After lobbying the European Commission on the need to empower children and young people on the move to be active citizens and agents of social change, Destination Unknown welcomes this strategy, as it aims to mainstream a children’s rights perspective in all relevant EU policies, legislation and funding programmes and to create a child-friendly culture in EU policy making. In the past year, Destination Unknown members have also lobbied the European Commission to take concrete commitments to prevent and protect children and young people on the move from violence, isolation and discrimination and to develop new measures ensuring that they have full access to psychosocial and mental health support, including as part of child protection and integration policies. 

Although the EU Strategy could have been stronger in some areas, Destination Unknown particularly welcomes the European Commission’s plans to: 

  • Empower children to change the narrative on migration

The European Commission recognizes negative stereotypes as one of the main challenges affecting child participation and the role of children as forefront actors in raising awareness on discrimination and injustice, active citizens and actors for social change. This is why the Commission wants to promote and improve the inclusive and systemic participation of all children, including children on the move,  at the local, national and EU level through the setting up of a new EU Children’s Participation Platform to be established with key stakeholders including child rights organizations to ensure that all children are involved in decision making processes. Destination Unknown supports this, which coincides with the launch of new Destination Unknown Communication Guidelines on hope-based narratives. Through these guidelines, Destination Unknown promotes more hopeful and positive narratives around children and young people on the move and calls for more space for children and young people to speak in a way that creates understanding and empathy, to address stereotypes and support their integration in societies.  

  • Strengthen the global dimension of child and youth participation 

The EU Strategy strengthens the EU commitments to promote child and youth empowerment and participation in decision making across the globe, including during crisis and conflict, with plans to launch a new strategy on youth empowerment by 2022 which will see the inclusion of marginalized and excluded groups of children. This aligns with the guiding principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that reaffirms children’s right to participate in actions and decisions affecting them. Destination Unknown has a strategic priority of enabling and promoting meaningful child and youth participation everywhere and fully supports this.  

  • Address children and youth’s psychosocial and mental health needs 

The question of access to psychosocial and mental health support, which is also a key concern for Destination Unknown, for the first time gains visibility in this new EU Strategy on child rights and is recognised as a priority. The EU Strategy emphasises that barriers to accessing basic services such as psychosocial and mental health support must be removed in order to promote the integration and inclusion of migrant and refugee children. Mental health support should be integrated in child protection policies. With the Strategy, the European Commission also invites Member States to identify children as a priority target group in their national integration and mental health strategies. As one of Destination Unknown’s global priorities, we aim to raise public awareness on the importance of making quality psychosocial and mental health services available and accessible for all children and young people on the move. We therefore commend the European Commission’s commitment to present a new initiative aimed at strengthening integrated child protection policies which could potentially contribute to increasing public awareness and inspire action from governments.

Destination Unknown urges the European Commission to ensure that this important strategy is effectively implemented, to guarantee a better future for all children and young people, where they can be actors of the changes they want to see.  


To view the Child-friendly version of the EU Children’s Rights strategy, check here, and a shorter version here.

A research report published in March 2021 by Destination Unknown member Refugee Rights Europe offers a situational analysis of mental health and wellbeing among unaccompanied minors and 18–25-year-olds, drawing on an in-depth desk review, alongside first-hand interviews with young people seeking asylum in the UK and their support workers. The report draws attention to the much-overlooked crisis relating to young asylum seekers’ mental health and wellbeing and calls for urgent action.

Read the report

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