Realising the rights of children and families in an irregular migration situation

PICUM, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, held an international conference in Brussels on 26 February to consolidate its work on undocumented children and present its recently launched report ‘Children First and Foremost’, the result of a two-year capacity-building project entitled Building Strategies to Improve Protection of Undocumented Children in Europe. This event brought together experiences from frontline professionals and policy makers from education, health and housing sectors to discuss the practical barriers to accessing services for undocumented children and their families.

At the plenary, Maria Amor Estebanez from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights highlighted the impact of fear and detection practices on access to services and rights, and reminded the audience that “the EU has undertaken a commitment to ensure the rights of ALL children.” Verena Kaus from UNICEF highlighted that “we should avoid the temptation to categorise children so that they fit into a specific policy agenda; instead, we should decriminalise, de-securitise and de-categorise migrant children". Nando Sigona from the University of Birmingham presented research which showed that deportation is not an effective tool for managing illegal immigration.

Alfonso Lara Montero, Policy and Research Officer at ESN, gave a presentation and conducted a workshop discussion on building an evidence base to promote access to services. Workshop participants discussed the challenges of gathering data particularly with certain user groups, such as undocumented children. For instance, participants looked at the various types of quantitative and qualitative data needed to build an evidence base (data on needs, costs and benefits), and the need to undertake data collection through a better partnership approach.

“Though there are difficulties in collecting data to build an evidence base, there is also great potential in new data collection methodologies to set up or evaluate services, in greater involvement of users and practitioners in design and evaluation, and in the development of stakeholders’ partnership to implement evaluation methodologies that improve policies’ impact and cost-effectiveness”, said Montero at the meeting.


PICUM’s toolkit, ‘Children First and Foremost. A guide to realising the rights of children and families in an irregular migration situation’ (available in English, Français and Español)