Promoting the inclusion and rights of unaccompanied minors: perspectives from the CIVILHOOD conference

Wednesday 28 February 2024

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The issue of policies for minor single arrivals in third countries is one of the most intricate contemporary challenges. CIVILHOOD is boldly and innovatively working on this issue in five crucial countries-Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia.

The final European conference on 15 February 2024 in Athens was an important milestone for the CIVILHOOD project. At that public event, partners from Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Austria and Slovenia presented a comprehensive overview of the project’s progress and results to guests from civil society and political organisations. The discussions focused on the development and implementation of project activities,  that aimed at promoting the treatment of unaccompanied minors as rights-holders, ensuring  their best interests as children are upheld.

The conference hosted over 70 participants, warmly greeted by esteemed guests from the civil and political sphers of participating countries and the European Commission Among the speakers delivering welcome and opening remarks were Mrs Aikaterini Poutou – Legal Representative of ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth in Greece,  Mrs. Tamara Weinger Pozar – Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to Greece; Mrs. Monika Esktrom – Policy Officer from the European Commission in Athens, and Mrs. Evdokia Bakalou from the Ministry of Migration & Asylum in Greece. Each speaker expressed unwavering support for the Civilhood project, underscoring the collective responsibility in shaping a safer and brighter common future. They emphasized the vital role of collaboration between nations, collaborative problem-solving, and the exchange of best practices.

ARSIS (Association for the Social Support of Youth in Greece) provided a comprehensive overview of the project, outlining its objectives, activities and outcomes, presented by Mr. Konstantinos Koutras, the international coordinator of Civilhood. He credited these achievements to the collaborative exchange of knowledge and reflections among project partners, the establishment of an effective network of actors and specialists in child protection, and the concerted efforts of these stakeholders to significantly contribute to the advancement of integration policies on top of their commitment to providing support to unaccompanied minors through education, training, employment initiatives, and day-to-day social accompaniment.

Three roundtable discussions were held during the conference, focusing on the following themes:

  • Challenges, gaps, and needs faced by unaccompanied minors. Under the expert moderation of Ms. Melina Chalkini from CECL-Greece, panellists including Konstantinos Koutras from ARSIS-Greece, Chara Giarkia and Chloe Michael from CODECA-Cyprus, Georgia Chondrou from CESIE-Italy, Štefan Simončič from EPEKA- Slovenia and Téclaire Ngo Tam from SÜDWIND-Austria, all part of the project partnership, came together to share insights. They discussed successful strategies, interventions, and invaluable lessons learned from their collaborative efforts. Central to their mission has been to enhance the social and vocational skills of unaccompanied minors, ultimately aiming to ease their transition into the job market and ensure their autonomy as they enter adulthood.
  • Facilitating the integration of unaccompanied minors in the workplace. At this roundtable, the panellists, Mr Yonous Muhhamadi, Founder and Director of the Greek Refugee Forum and Member of the European Commission, Mr Thanasis Cheimonas, Deputy Mayor for Social Integration of Immigrants and Refugees of the Municipality of Athens, and Mr. Vassilios Kerasiotis, lawyer specialising in the protection of human rights, highlighted the urgent need to broaden the scope of care arrangements for unaccompanied minors. They stressed the paramount importance of prioritising the best interests of the child and the importance of promoting the social inclusion of both the minors and their host communities.
  • Policy recommendations at both EU and national levels. Following the presentation of CIVILHOOD’s policy recommendations by Ms Téclaire Ngo Tam of Südwind-Austria, policy recommendations at European and national level were discussed in depth. Eminent panellists, including Ms Antonia Psyrra, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG Home, Ms Evdokia Bakalou, Operational Assistant at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum – General Secretariat for Vulnerable Persons and Institutional Protection, and Mr Primoz Jamsek, Head of the Integration Unit at the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants in Slovenia, underlined the crucial importance of these recommendations.

They noted though that countries are in the process of establishing effective mechanisms to address the needs of unaccompanied minors and have already adopted the European Agency’s operational plan. However, the panellists stressed that legislation, while crucial, does not in itself guarantee successful implementation. Genuine monitoring is essential for effective implementation. They also stressed the ongoing need for cooperation with all stakeholders and the strengthening of systemic mechanisms to better support those in need. Continuous improvement and adaptation were highlighted as essential elements in ensuring the effective delivery of assistance and support to vulnerable people.

In the long term, the partners anticipate that the outcomes of the project will have a substantial impact on several fronts, including the labour markets in the participating countries, national and EU policies, and the nature of support for unaccompanied minors (UAM) across the EU. Indeed, the CIVILHOOD project transcended mere activities; it embodied a transformative journey that delved into innovative methods for improving the employability and labour skills development of unaccompanied minors through civic education.

About the project

CIVILHOOD – Enhancing unaccompanied minors transition to early adulthood through civic education and labour market integration is a project funded by the AMIF, DG Home Affairs – Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund program of the European Uninon.

Partners

For further information

Read more about the project.

Contact Georgia Chondrou: georgia.chondrou@cesie.org.

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