Laurence Geai • Grand Reporter
In the European refugee and migrant’s crisis, one in three people seeking for refuge is a child. Among these children, there are unaccompanied children(1)“Unaccompanied minors are children aged of less than 18 years, that were separated from both of their parents and other close relatives and who are not taken care of by an adult invested with this responsibility by law or custom”, according to the definition of the European Council upon the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)9 by the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on life projects for unaccompanied migrant minors, 12 July 2007. http://infomie.net/spip.php?article189. There is no existing census of these children. Due to their great mobility, numbers are constantly evolving. We estimate that they are around 500, permanently present on the entire Channel coastline since the beginning of 2016. Still, these fragile children are not protected. The solutions suggested by public authorities in France are limited and inadequate. They live in unacceptable conditions (lack of food, no access to water, non-attendance to school). At the mercy of smugglers and adults, they are exposed to permanent dangers: accidents, injuries, and violence including sexual abuse.
The photographer Laurence Geai went to Calais between February and May 2016 and investigated in the slum, with these isolated young persons decided to go to England. Her pictures make us recognize the harshness of the existence of these children, the risk they take and the urgent necessity of help. They remind us that they are children above all, and that the way we welcome them in our countries is a shared responsibility. Her coverage, associated to the sociological survey conducted by the association Trajectoires for UNICEF France(2)Olivier Peyroux, Alexandre Le Clève and Evangéline Masson Diez, Ni sains ni saufs. Enquête sur les enfants non-accompagnés dans le Nord de la France, Unicef et Trajectoires, June 2016,
https://www.unicef.fr/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ni-sains-ni-saufs_mna_france_2016_0.pdf, wants to document the situation of these young people: make them visible, to end the denial and to take appropriate measures according to their situation, their age and their fragility.
|To go further: migrant children blocked in Greece
51%: this is the proportion of children aged less than 18, composing the refugee population in the world in 2015, representing a 41% increase compared to 2009. More than 98,400 unaccompanied or separated children asked for asylum in 78 countries in 2015, most of them are Afghan, Eritrean, Somali or Syrian, this is the highest number since this data started to be analysed in 2006*.
In the spring 2016, when refugees and migrants blocked on the Greek islands, started to arrive in Turkey following the agreement between Ankara and the European Union, UNICEF reminded States of their obligation to take care of and protect all children while giving them the possibility to express themselves when their future is at risk. The new Greek law, entered into force last April 4th, excludes forced return or exceptional border procedures for some vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied or separated children, children with disabilities, victims of trauma or distress, pregnant women or women who have recently given birth. There is still a lot remaining to do.
During last spring, more than 22,000 refugees and migrant children blocked in Greece were confronted to an uncertain future and even to diverse types of detention since the application of the agreement. UNICEF wants the implementation of a coordinated procedure to protect the best interests of children and to satisfy their needs, meaning decent housing, health care, protection against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, according to international and European law. Due to their situation, children have particular reasons to benefit from international protection, in particular to escape forced marriage and the recruitment in armed forces. The European Commission has clearly stipulated that returns had to comply with international European law.
Raoul Dandurand Chair in strategic and diplomatic studies, University of Quebec (UQAM) Montreal, Member of the Steering council of Humanitarian Alternatives
*UNHCR, Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2015, UNHCR, 20 June 2016, http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/576408cd7/unhcr-global-trends-2015.html
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ISBN of the article (HTML) : 978-2-37704-156-5
|￪1||“Unaccompanied minors are children aged of less than 18 years, that were separated from both of their parents and other close relatives and who are not taken care of by an adult invested with this responsibility by law or custom”, according to the definition of the European Council upon the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)9 by the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on life projects for unaccompanied migrant minors, 12 July 2007. http://infomie.net/spip.php?article189|
|￪2||Olivier Peyroux, Alexandre Le Clève and Evangéline Masson Diez, Ni sains ni saufs. Enquête sur les enfants non-accompagnés dans le Nord de la France, Unicef et Trajectoires, June 2016,|