A PACE hearing draws attention to the problems experienced by children of undocumented migrants

" A child is first and foremost a child, and only in second place a migrant. This is the starting point for any discussion about undocumented migrant children; the status of the child is secondary and arguably irrelevant," according to Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD), speaking today at the opening of a joint hearing on the subject of children of undocumented migrants organised by the PACE Sub-Committees on Migration and on Children.

"How can we ensure that such children have a proper roof over their heads and are not put off going to school for fear of being arrested?" asked Carina Ohlsson (Sweden, SOC), when she opened the hearing.

The representatives of various NGOs who had been invited to the hearing – during which a child gave a personal account – said that children of undocumented migrants encounter major difficulties in respect of schooling, access to health care and access to housing.

"It is vital to take account of the child's best interest and not to discriminate against him or her in any way," said Michele Levoy, Director of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), who noted that there was a growing number of networks of health professionals, teachers and local authorities which recognised the rights of the children of undocumented migrants.

These children, like any others, should have access to education, healthcare and appropriate housing. Participants concluded that steps should also be taken to ensure that children of undocumented migrants are no longer detained, are physically and psychologically secure and are not exploited in any way.

Mr Agramunt's report on undocumented migrant children in an irregular situation is to be debated in Friday’s plenary sitting.