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20 January 2017
On 17-18 January 2017, a SCEP meeting took place at the headquarters of Defence for Children the Netherlands in Leiden. During the first day of the meeting, members of the Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) were invited to share their concerns and latest developments regarding the situation of separated children in their country, discussing thereby changes in practice and in national law.
The main topics of discussion were the age assessment practices of countries, their guardianship systems and the right to reception facilities. From the meeting it became clear that the rights of separated children continue to be under threat. Major concerns were raised about the fact that some countries do not apply accurate criteria in assessing the age of a child and allow unqualified individuals to conduct the assessments. As a result, many separated children lose their rights to proper housing, a guardian and school. Some are even kept in detention under the suspicion of being adults. SCEP members are worried about these developments.
In addition, SCEP members raised concerns about the lack of contact between the guardian and the child, the best interest of the child not being duly considered by the guardians and the failure of governments to provide a guardianship system by law for separated children. Furthermore, the lack of access to reception facilities, especially in cases in which a separated child turns 18 years old, is a major issue of concern for the SCEP members. Recently turned 18 years old children are not allowed to stay in the reception centres and are often left with no other choice than to live in the streets. In such cases, not only are these children deprived from proper housing and protection, but also from the enjoyment of family life as they are sometimes separated from their minor sibling(s).
These alarming issues exacerbate the difficulties separated children face in their pursuit of safety and protection. SCEP is determined to continue to advocate for the improvement of the situation of separated children through lobbying and research efforts in order to ensure that they are accorded the protection they are entitled to in every European State