Unaccompanied migrant children: a call for child-friendly age assessment procedures

UNICEF reports that some 170,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in Europe in 2015-2016, often having no identity documents. In order to offer them protection and assistance, it is necessary to determine their age. However, currently there is no assessment process which can determine the exact age of individuals.

The PACE Committee on Migration believes that the development of a child-sensitive, holistic model of age assessment would enable European states to meet the needs of unaccompanied and separated children.

Accordingly, following the proposals of the rapporteur Doris Fiala (Switzerland, ALDE) it calls on European governments to support the development of a child-sensitive model of age assessment for young migrants in Europe, compatible with the Council of Europe’s human rights’ standards, to replace inaccurate and potentially traumatising medical tests.

The Assembly members believe it is essential to provide unaccompanied migrant children with “reliable information about age assessment procedures in their own language”, appoint a guardian to offer individual support and ensure that all unaccompanied migrant children or their representatives “can challenge the age assessment decision”.

Dental or wrist x-rays and all other invasive medical procedures should be used only as a last resort, and the detention of unaccompanied and separated children who are awaiting or undergoing age assessment should be prohibited.

Lastly the Committee calls on the Committee of Ministers of the 47 Council of Europe member states to adopt the standards for child-friendly age assessment as soon as they have been drawn up by the CAHENF-Safeguards, taking into account the relevant recommendations of the Assembly.