Romania: the protection of refugee children

Photography credits: Roxana Todea

Source: The Romanian Federation of NGOs for Child (FONPC)

During the 14th edition of ISPCAN’s Regional Conference, organized in Bucharest on September 27-30, child protection specialists expressed their concern with the situation of refugee children. The Romanian Federation of NGOs for Child (FONPC), member of ChildPact, has issued an official statement with recommendations about the current refugee crisis in Europe. 

”Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.”

Pope Francisc address to US Congress, September 24th, 2015

According to SPHERE Minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian actions:

”In humanitarian settings across the world today, children are likely to make up half or more of the population affected by conflicts or disasters. The many risks facing these girls and boys have a devastating impact on their well-being, physical security, and future. Some children are killed or injured. Others face separation from their families and caregivers or recruitment into armed forces or armed groups; and far too many suffer sexual violence or other forms of exploitation and abuse.

The protection of children from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect is an urgent priority for all those working in humanitarian situations, including, of course, protection actors but also the broad range of sectoral specialists. Our efforts need to be quick, well planned and effective – and we need to be able to measure whether they are reaching children and properly protecting them. Furthermore, in our humanitarian action, we need to ensure that we strengthen systems that will protect children in the longer term, when the emergency response is over.” (Foreword, SPHERE Minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian action)

Background:

Since 2014 the European states are the main destination for hundred-thousand citizens of the Middle East countries confronted for a number of years with the deterioration of the domestic situation, caused by civil wars and terrorism. This creates a permanent state of insecurity and economic deprivation for the populations of these countries. Children are most and worst affected by this unprecedented refugee crisis..

The latest wave of migrants moving on a fast pace toward Europe comes from Syria and Iraq. According to UNHCR statistics, 381,412 people had crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 to the shores of the European states; this number is estimated to reach 400,000 by year’s end. According to estimates by World Vision, among the groups of refugees in Serbia alone there were more than 8,000 unaccompanied children.

In this context the authorities and civil society are required to demonstrate increased capacity for mobilization and coordination based on the principles of resource complementarity and focussing on the preservation of human dignity.

During the 14th edition of ISPCAN’s Regional Conference, organized in Bucharest on September 27-30, the child protection specialists expressed their concern with the situation of the refugee children. Due to their state of vulnerability children should be a priority target group. The Sphere principles of child protection in humanitarian assistance should be respected in all actions:

Principle 1: Avoid exposing people to further harm as a result of your actions.

Principle 2: Ensure people’s access to impartial assistance.

Principle 3: Protect people from physical and psychological harm arising from violence and coercion.

Principle 4: Assist people to claim their rights, access available remedies and recover from the effects of abuse.

Principle 5: Strengthen child protection systems.

Principle 6: Strengthen children’s resilience in humanitarian action.

As a EU member state, Romania has assumed responsibility to support the humanitarian efforts for the protection and integration of refugees. To ensure the observance of children’s rights and the protection of refugee children from the Middle East arriving in increasing numbers in Europe, World Vision Romania considers that the following objectives should be a priority during the humanitarian interventions:

  1. Ensure the protection of children’s rights and observe the child protection minimum standards. Along with all other member states of the European Union, Romania has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that, among refugees, children should receive special protection, and interventions should prioritize their short-term safety and long-term development. Adequate allocation of funding should aim to ensure the implementation of minimum child protection standards in humanitarian interventions.
  2. Ensure minimum standards for the reception and decent living conditions for refugees, taking into account the specific needs of each group (unaccompanied children, mothers with small children, etc.). As winter approaches, particular attention is required to meeting the needs of those who just transit our country (clothing, footwear and other equipment necessary minimum), and to ensure decent living conditions for those who will apply and qualify for asylum status in Romania.

III. Ensure coherence and effectiveness of interventions through the establishment of a functional working group gathering representatives / experts from the central government and the nongovernmental organizations. An unified effort of the institutions and organizations should be reflected primarily in identifying the needs and priorities of the refugees and allocating the necessary resources in a complementary manner. While minimum standards should be observed in providing all refugees with the food, hygiene and health care they need, child protection specialists should be part of the working group to ensure coordination and reinforcement of the child protection standards. Particular attention should be given to preserving the family unit and reuniting children with their families.

  1. Focus on long-term solutions that protect children in their families, in consultation with the community representatives, to ensure children’s resilience. In collaboration with partners from the civil society, business and government, projects should be developed to facilitate the social integration of refugees who will qualify for the status of asylum in Romania. Such initiatives should include a specific component of community mobilization and consultation with the refugee group. Particular attention should be given to child participation, with an aim to respect the rights of children to express their opinion in matters that affect their life. Education should be among the priorities for this group of children who has already been on the move for a long time.