José Noronha Rodrigues: Migrant and Refugee Children in Europe: A New Perspective

Migrant and Refugee Children in Europe: A New Perspective

José Noronha Rodrigues


The definition of a child accepted by the international community is presented in Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ‘A child is every human being below the age of 18 years, unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’. This definition ensures that the family is a natural and fundamental element of society and a natural environment for the growth and well-being of all members, particularly children, and that it should receive the necessary protection and assistance to fully play its role in the community. Thus, it is unhelpful to distinguish children, whether they are unaccompanied minors, refugees, or migrants, from any other children, because, in practice, all children are children by virtue of their natural fragility. They deserve the full protection of the Member States and the European Union to safeguard their most basic human rights. However, refugee, migrant, and/or unaccompanied minor children suffer from a double fragility: they are children in a foreign country with all the consequences that this entails, namely in communicating and/or asking for help. Therefore, the European Children’s Ombudsman, together with the European Union, must be the guarantors, fundamental to the implementation and standardization of principles, rights, duties, processes, and procedures regarding the uncompromising defense of children, regardless of their state of origin. To this end, they should govern their actions based on the following principles: (a) Superior interest of the child and young person, (b) Privacy, (c) Early intervention, (d) Minimum intervention, (e) Proportionality and timeliness, (f) Parental responsibility, (g) Primacy of the continuity of deep psychological relationships, (h) Prevalence of the family, (i) Mandatory information, (j) Mandatory hearing and participation, and (k) Subsidiarity. The way a child is taken in, will influence his or her perception of the foster system.

Rodrigues, J. N.. “Migrant and Refugee Children in Europe: A New Perspective”. In: Discourses of Globalisation, Ideology and Human Rights, p. 53-81. Springer, Cham, 2022.