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Historically bad: new EU Pact on migration and asylum normalises rights violations and endangers children


20 Dec 2023


Development Policy

Banners and bicycles in the streets of Brussels as part of Save the Children's campaign unveiled on December 5 2023 to put spotlight on situation of migrant children. Photo: Save the Children Europe

Brussels, 20 December 2023 – The agreement reached today between the European Parliament and national governments in Europe on the reform of the European migration and asylum system will lead to  blatant violations of children’s rights, will endanger children on the move, and will lead to further separation of migrant families, said Save the Children.

The agreement – known as the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum – will also lead to systematising the detention of children of all ages at EU borders,  and undermine their fair access to asylum across the continent.

“The European leaders involved in these negotiations claim that the new Pact is a historic agreement on EU migration policy that will establish clear, fair and faster border procedures. This result is deemed crucial to reducing the influx of asylum seekers towards Europe.

“In fact, the agreement reached today is historically bad. It is evident that for the majority of legislators, the priority was to close borders, not protect people, including families and children escaping violence, conflict, hunger and death while seeking protection in Europe," says Willy Bergogné, Save the Children Europe’s Director and EU representative.

According to Save the Children, the reform presented an opportunity to provide effective solutions to thousands of children and families ending up in inappropriate and often overcrowded facilities at borders, without adequate access to rights and assistance – a scenario all too common on the Italian shores, Greek or Spanish islands, and in the countries across the Balkans route, where children are victims of unspeakable violence perpetrated by smugglers and border guards at the external borders of the EU.

It was also a chance to reaffirm the EU’s role as child rights champion. Instead, should this reform obtain the final validation of the majority of the European Parliament and the Member States in Spring 2024, the systematic detention of families with children will become the norm. Children won’t be safer, especially those travelling unaccompanied, for whom the importance to be with reunited with their families, including their siblings, is discarded in the new Pact.  

The lack of mandatory relocation and effective solidarity in sharing responsibility for reception of people requesting protection in Europe was rejected by EU Member States. Instead, the new law would open possibilities to build more fences and walls, keeping people stranded at EU borders, subjected to inhumane treatment and violence. Rather than addressing these failures, the Pact risks legitimizing current violations and perpetuating a cycle of mistreatment of those seeking protection. Moreover, children won’t be exempt from accelerated evaluation of their protection needs at borders. As a result, many of them will risk not be granted asylum or other forms of protection based on their personal history and needs, nor will be able to access education, health, housing or psychosocial support as any other child in Europe.

“We will continue to stand for all children rights and to assist children on the move in Europe and at borders. A child is a child, no matter where they come from. Every child deserves a fair chance to be safe, protected, have hopes and dreams for a better future in Europe away from home,” adds Willy Bergogné, Save the Children Europe’s Director.

Save the Children is a global child rights organisation working to improve the lives of children in need. We believe every child deserves a future. In Europe and around the world, we do whatever it takes – every day and in times of crisis – so children can fulfil their rights to a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. With over 100 years of expertise and programs in 116 countries, we are the world’s first and leading independent children’s organization – transforming lives and the future we share. For more information, visit



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