European Court Rules in Favour of Child Migrant

France has been ordered by the European Union Court of Human Rights to pay an unaccompanied Afghan child migrant EUR 15,000. The fine was imposed for failure to protect the 12-year-old migrant when he lived alone in a temporary migrant camp in Calais, France.

The court in Strasbourg said it was not convinced the French government did all it could to care for and protect the child, Jamil Khan. It ruled that authorities had breached Europe’s human rights convention forbidding inhuman or degrading treatment.

Khan’s case is not unusual for children living in France, but the ruling is limited to his case. The Afghan migrant spent six months in a squalid camp in northern France, along with many other unaccompanied children. Khan now resides in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Migrants formally recognised as underaged in France has increased three-fold between 2015 and last year, placing strain on the public welfare system. The Associated Press reported that there are now over 17,000 migrants and asylum seekers considered as minors, but French Interior Ministry said more adult migrants claim to be children to seek special aid and shelter.

Rights group Human Rights Watch disagrees with the assessment. In October 2018, it criticised procedures adopted by French authorities to assess child migrants, in a report “‘Like a Lottery’: Arbitrary Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Paris”.

The group said that it “found that authorities are using summary age assessments to determine eligibility for services, in violation of international standards and French regulations. As a result, children are deprived of access to essential services they are entitled to, including housing, education, and health services. In the meantime, many must sleep on the streets.”

“These children have suffered through incredibly difficult and dangerous journeys, only to be deprived of the protection and care they need,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch.

To determine real ages of child migrants, the French interior ministry said it is creating a nationwide database where all details including fingerprints and photos of the child migrants will be entered. However, the UN children’s agency UNICEF filed a complaint against it in France. Child rights advocates said the new info does not respect privacy rights, encourages authorities to deport young migrants, and can scare isolated kids far from seeking assistance.

TMP – 12/03/2019

Photo credit: Symbiot/Shutterstock. European Court of Human Rights building