Protect all the children fleeing Ukraine

Author: Caroline Rhawi

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Putin's war against Ukraine has forced over 1.5 million children to flee Ukraine, and many of the remaining six million children have had to seek safety internally in the country. In a resolution today adopted by the European Parliament on the request of Renew Europe, we call for a series of measures to put the safety of children on top of the EU agenda.

Hilde Vautmans (Open VLD, Belgium), co-chair of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Children Rights and Renew Europe's negotiator on the resolution, said:

"Many of the 7.5 million children and young persons, both in Ukraine and the EU, are in urgent need of safety, health care, humanitarian aid, food and education. These children, particularly the unaccompanied, are at a significantly increased risk of violence, exploitation and human trafficking. It is our collective duty to ensure all the rights that the Russian regime has deprived them of. With today's resolution, we turn every stone to protect the children."

Amongst the measures is the call for enhanced border procedures. Child Protection Officers must be present at the borders to refer children to appropriate services and ensure handover to the national child protection systems. Member States must quickly upon arrival appoint a guardian to all unaccompanied children regardless of nationality or immigration status, and provide child-friendly information in their language.

Additionally, close collaboration with Ukrainian authorities and the obligation for Member States to register children entering the EU is essential to prevent trafficking, illegal adoption, and other exploitation. This way, we can make their journey to the EU less dangerous.

Further, we ask the European Commission for an EU strategy to step up humanitarian actions on the ground to rescue children, increased efforts for family reunification and to strengthen the hotline 116 000 for missing children. Finally, all Member States must integrate the children into their education systems, provide specialised support to limit dropouts, and ensure adequate and long-term permanent housing for children and families.