Coming Soon to Brussels

Lost in migration II

From European priorities to local realities

The workshops of 2018 will be announced soon. For further information, please take a look at last year’s workshops below.


1. Missing unaccompanied children and links with trafficking – legal obligations on protection and areas for improvement

> Coordinated by Birds Solicitors, Garden Court Chambers and Simpson Millar Solicitors

This legal workshop will look at the legal obligations EU countries (and in particular the UK) have towards children and young migrants who have been trafficked into Europe and who go missing, either:

- when they arrive to the country (if it is a transit country)
- when they are intercepted by the authorities
- when they are released from custody or detention or
- whilst under the care of local authorities/social services

The lawyers delivering this working will look at what the trigger that gives rise to this legal duty is and how it can be enforced against various State bodies (police, immigration enforcement, social services, etc.). This workshop will explore the status of those individuals who go missing during the course of litigation, in both criminal and public law proceedings and  during the National Referral Mechanism process (which is the framework the UK has set up for identifying victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and ensure they receive the necessary support).

The workshop will also look into what action NGOs, social workers and lawyers can take when their young trafficked clients or support users go missing, both during the course of legal proceedings or whilst they are being looked after by social services, in order to ensure they are treated as victims of trafficking rather than absconders.

The workshop participants will be divided into groups and the lawyer delivering the workshop will carry out an interactive activity with the participants to look into best practice for the authorities, the courts, lawyers and NGO workers to ensure that when young trafficked individuals go missing during litigation and decision making processes that they are not prejudiced  or recriminalized. 


Philippa Southwell, Birds Solicitors
Maria Moodie, Garden Court Chambers
Silvia Nicolaou Garcia, Simpson Millar Solicitors


2. The enhancement of practical inter-state cooperation in the context of Dublin procedures > Coordinated by UNHCR

The Dublin Regulation is a key instrument to enable unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) to reunite with their family within the EU. Delays in the provision of guardianship and legal assistance, lack of clarity as to the role of the actors involved as well as the lack of standardized approaches in areas such as best interest assessments (BIAs) and family tracing create significant challenges and duplication of assessments. Despite a clear duty to cooperate between Member States (MS) in assessing the best interests of children (Art. 6(3) of the Dublin Regulation), cooperation between Member States in this context is often limited if not absent. These challenges can result in lengthy delays in family reunion procedures concerning UASC which often mean that they disappear to join their families in another MS outside the Dublin framework.

Through the intervention of civil society representatives as well as relevant authorities including from Dublin units, the workshop will seek to bring to the surface practical challenges to an effective inter-state cooperation in this context as well as best practices. How the different actors involved can facilitate such procedures, with particular regard to guardians, will be discussed. A child rights/Dublin expert would steer discussions with participants and ensure their active engagement with a view to formulating a conclusion with recommendations. The recommendations will be aimed at the enhancement of practical inter-state cooperation in the context of Dublin procedures concerning UASC, in particular with regard to BIA procedures and family tracing.


Maria Hennessy, Irish Refugee Council, Dublin & child rights expert (moderator)
Silvia Cravesana, UNHCR
Germa Lourens, NIDOS the Netherlands, guardianship organization
Simona Spinelli, Italian Dublin Unit
Kristine Korsager Andersen, Danish Immigration Service


3. When is ‘return’ to the country of origin in the best interests of the child?

> Coordinated by PICUM

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has reiterated that children should not be subject to punitive measures because of their or their parents’ immigration status, and that any transfer of a child to another country should be done in their best interests. General immigration control interests cannot take precedence over the best interests of the child.

In some cases, it will be in the best interests of the child to ‘return’ to their country of origin. However, decisions around return and expulsion orders rarely include meaningful best interests of the child determinations. Few reintegration programmes focus on the specific social, educational or health needs of children returned.

The political prioritisation of achieving ‘effective returns’ will likely lead to an increase in the number of children and families subject to removal orders, and there are early indications of this emerging trend. Fear of deportation also has measurable impact on children’s psycho-social health and is a key driver for ‘disappearances’ as children and families disengage with immigration authorities.

This workshop will consider the tools available to help support stakeholders push for meaningful assessments before decisions are made, and for procedures to be centred around case management and finding a durable solution for the child and its family.

Insights from legal reasoning in appeals and existing post-return monitoring activities will be explored alongside available procedural tools on best interests’ assessments that exist for some categories of children, and need further dissemination, implementation and adaption to other categories of children.


Lilana Keith, PICUM
Verena Knaus, UNICEF
Hil Nrecaj, NGO Monitor
Frances Trevena, Coram Children's Legal Centres


4. Guardianship: minimum standards

> Coordinated by Separated Children in Europe (SCEP) and Save the Children

Guardianship systems are essential in providing elementary protection for children, upon their arrival to Europe. There is a great disparity between guardianship systems in different member states, which the EU is now trying to tackle by harmonising guardianship in the Procedures Regulation. Every child is entitled to a functional and effective guardianship system with qualified and trained independent guardians who have the know-how, expertise and capacity to support each child they are appointed to. Is a harmonised guardianship system realistic? Or should we devise minimum standards? What should these look like?

SCEP is revising the Statement of Good Practice (SGP). The SGP is a living document and has been drawn up by SCEP in order to provide a straightforward account of the policies and practices required to implement and protect the rights of separated children in Europe. During this workshop, attention will be paid to the issues of guardianship as described in the revised SGP.

Save the Children Italy has been advocating for years for a law un unaccompanied children, which was now recently approved in the Italian Parliament. Based on existing EU policies, they have made an analysis on what minimum standards for guardianship should look like. They will present this as a basis for discussion.


Jantine Walst, Defence for Children
Terry Smith, Separated Children in Europe (SCEP) Advisor
Matteo Delmonte, Save the Children
Elena Rozzi, ASGI
Konstantinos Kazanas, Save the Children


5. Establishing mechanisms for transnational child protection

> Coordinated by Save the Children, World Vision and NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre

There is a lack of comprehensive guidance to EU Member States on the nature of the specific transnational coordination mechanisms that will help ensure the protection of children in the context of migration. We need to reflect with other experts and agencies on what national and international measures should, or could, be put in place to ensure coordination of actions amongst state and non-state actors to protect migrant children at the national and transnational levels in the EU. Save the Children and World Vision are working globally to protect children on the move. What kind of mechanisms are currently existing and how do they function? What can we learn from experiences in other regions? Where are the gaps in the European system? How do we ensure that cross-border child protections systems work?

The NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre will present their model of multi-agency, cross-border working,  the trends the service sees in terms of child trafficking and missing children and case studies of how the service works nationally and across borders to protect children as a multi-agency team of social workers, national crime agency and immigration.

Save the Children will speak about some examples of cross border coordination that it has supported in various region and how these have improved the protection of children on the move. It will also present some preliminary findings of a series of studies it is currently conducting on this issue in various regions.

This workshop aims to discuss the recommendation of setting up effective cross-border child protection systems by looking at challenges on the ground and existing policies. Participants will develop concrete practical recommendations and policy suggestions.


Daniela Reale, Save the Children
Weihui Wang, World Vision
Charlotte Jamieson, NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre
Harmesh Raju, NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre


6. How to prevent and respond to unaccompanied children going missing

> Coordinated by Child Focus, hotline for missing children in Belgium, and Minor Ndako, reception centre for minors in Belgium

This interactive workshop will focus on the prevention of, as well as the response to, disappearances of children in migration. It will be led by 2 expert organizations working daily in the field of unaccompanied minors: Minor Ndako (reception center) and Child Focus (hotline missing children).

The aim is to formulate concrete recommendations on 2 key-topics: prevention of disappearance from unaccompanied children from reception centers and the response to these disappearances through (cross-border) inter-service cooperation.

The workshop will be highly interactive, by engaging all attendees in the process of reflection and formulating challenges and/or problems and best practices concerning these key-topics. We will use real-life cases to streamline the discussion and assure a sense of reality. The interactive methodology will be led by 3 experts, who will start highlighting the importance of prevention and collaboration based on their field of expertise and continue by moderating and enriching the group reflections and debate. This sound base of day-to-day experience will assure that the ideas on prevention and interagency cooperation that will emerge from this workshop build on existing evidence and recommendations, as formulated by the SUMMIT-project.


Sofia Mahjoub, Child Focus
Pieter Vanholder, Child Focus
Semma Groenendijk, Minor Ndako


7. The role of quality care in encouraging children and youth on the move in Europe to seek support in protected spaces

> Coordinated by EPIM and the Migration Policy Institute, with the participation of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)

The hypothesis that quality of care, and the child’s perception thereof, matter in the prevention of children going missing has recently gained support. That the reasons for children and youth leaving reception facilities are more diverse than the aim to move on has been reconfirmed in the wake of the refugee crisis, where children disappeared from countries of destination and where the closure of the Greek border saw children leave one reception facility to join another. Reasons, such as fearing a negative decision on the asylum application, poor conditions in shelters, ineffective guardian systems or being at the mercy of a smuggling or trafficking gang also play a significant role.

The question of how to provide quality of care that is tailored to the mandate of each child and perceived as such by the individual is therefore at the heart of the workshop. Reception facilities, guardianship systems, foster families, communities and health, education and vocational training institutions that seek to protect and empower the development of the child and are able to convey that objective to the child are a key predictor in the child’s likelihood of staying where they have arrived.

In this workshop, representatives from civil society organisations in Belgium, Germany, Greece and Italy who work with (unaccompanied and separated) children will discuss the practices they have adopted in pursuit of providing quality care to the target group they are working with and ensuring that this resonates with the child’s mandate for his/her journey to Europe. Workshop participants will gain insight into those practices, how these are tailored to the (shifting) profile of the child, the dilemmas that practitioners have – and continue to face – in this respect, and the transferable lessons that can be drawn for other Member States and the EU as a supportive environment. The workshop will also include the perspective and voices from children and youth who are or have been in care while on the move in Europe, with the aim to inform a set of recommendations to serve as guidelines for the care of children and youth on the move across Europe.


Hanne Beirens, Migration Policy Institute Europe
Wilke Ziemann, Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung gemeinnützige GmbH
Maria Gkioka & Kenneth Brant Hansen, Faros
Mohammed Youni, Jugendliche ohne Grenzen
Semma Groenendijk, Minor-Ndako
Elona Boskhi, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)


8. Assessing the best interest of the child to identify durable solutions

> Coordinated by The County Administrative Boards of Sweden (CABS)

In the past year, The County Administrative Boards of Sweden (CABS) have carried out a government assignment from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs on the prevention and response to disappearances of unaccompanied refugee children. A model of cooperation among key actors (including civil society and law enforcement agencies) has been developed, covering the national, regional and local levels. A hand book on cooperation on this issue has been published.

A method has been developed as part of the national assignment, called Invisible Friends. This method will be used during the workshop. Each workshop participant will receive an invisible friend, who represents recent and real stories of undocumented children in Sweden. To develop our recommendation, the stories of our invisible friends will guide us in small group discussions. At the end of the workshop the participants will be able to send messages to their invisible friends and tell them about the conference and the recommendation developed. Stockholm City Mission will deliver the messages to the children upon return to Sweden.


Amir Hashemi-Nik, The County Administrative Boards of Sweden (CABS)
Elin Blomberg, The County Administrative Boards of Sweden (CABS)
Roshna Mahmoudi, Social Worker
Helena Wihlborg, Stockholm City Mission


9. Creating a Culture of Trust: Separated and trafficked children missing from care in the UK > Coordinated by ECPAT UK, Missing People and Children’s Society

Based on ground-breaking new research (published November 2016) this workshop will explore three key areas for improvement in the UK approach to trafficked, unaccompanied and separated children who go missing from care. The overall recommendation from this session will be the need to create a culture of trust with young people, which is best supported by multi-agency coordination, the use of appropriate accommodation and provision of state-appointed Child Trafficking Advocates/Guardians.

Responding to Risk: The session will explore the risk of going missing, the risks faced by missing children, the UK response to this risk (before, during and after a missing incident), accommodation and challenges in the UK context. The session will draw on the findings published in the recent Heading Back to Harm report.

Guardianship in the UK: the presentation will explore the challenges and plans for implementation of independent child trafficking advocates and systems of guardianship in the UK for trafficked and unaccompanied children, as well as the impact of these systems on the child’s protection needs and an effective response to disappearances. The session will draw on findings published and additional data collected for the Heading Back to Harm research study.

Creating a Durable Solution: This session will draw on Lucy’s experience providing support to trafficked and unaccompanied children. It will examine some of the challenges faced by local government in the UK when supporting young people who are trying to navigate the UK’s complex immigration law. It will then reflect on how these challenges might vary between transit and destination countries in ensuring a positive long term outcome for trafficked and unaccompanied children.


Lucy Holmes, Research Manager, Missing People
Andrea Simon, Campaigns Officer, ECPAT UK
Lucy Leon – Service Manager; Trafficking, The Children’s Society


10. Setting minimum standards for the interagency cooperation to better protect children in migration from harm

> Coordinated by the Smile of the Child

It is important to set minimum standards of quality for the cooperation between law enforcement and NGOs in the protection of children from going missing, also at the European level. The good examples offered by partnerships in Greece and Belgium will be complemented by the best practices collected through the SUMMIT project.

The participating speakers will focus, apart from the strengths of the established collaboration in cases of missing children, also to the weaknesses and problems that the Hotlines are facing within the framework of the refugee crisis and the disappearances of refugee and migrant children, for example the need for more awareness on the services provided by the involved NGOs.



Piji Protopsaltis, The Smile of the Child (moderator)
Costas Yannopoulos, The Smile of the Child
Pieter Vanholder, Child Focus
Rosalba Ceravolo, Telefono Azzurro
Alain Remue, Belgian Police


11. Durable Solutions for Children on the Move

> Coordinated by KOPIN

The Destination Unknown Campaign for the rights and protection of Children on the Move (CoM), led by Terre des Hommes, has developed ten key demands.  Its seventh demands that “[...] states should make a case per case decision, aiming at a finding a durable solution for the child and respecting the child’s view. A risk assessment should be conducted and documented prior to any decisions of repatriation and family reunification. Repatriation is not an automatic option, but one among others.”  Based on this, the DUC has set up a Working Group on Durable Solutions (DUC DS WG), which over the past months elaborated recommendations (listed further below) and procedures (attached) concerning durable solutions for CoM.

Introducing the Campaign and the DS WG’s recommendations, Kopin will be presenting the case of Farah Abdi, a young Somali refugee who, departing from Kenya aged 15, reached Malta as a 16 year old demanding protection on grounds of his sexual orientation.


Dominik Kalweit, Kopin
William Grech, Kopin
Olivier Geissler, SSI
Vincent Tournecuillert, Terre des Hommes

Epim - Never alone

This conference has been supported by the Fund ‘Never Alone – Building our future with children and youth arriving in Europe’ of the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), a collaborative initiative of the Network of European Foundations (NEF). The sole responsibility for the conference lies with the organiser(s) and the content may not necessarily reflect the positions of EPIM, NEF or the Foundations contributing to the Fund.

Programme of the European Union

With financial support from the "Rights, Equality and Citizenship 2014-2020" Programme of the European Union