New border procedures being considered by the European Union will give a green light to six-year-old children being detained and deported, rights groups have revealed. European legislators are deliberating over the shocking proposals despite fears that it could lead to very young children being exposed to greater danger.
Negotiators representing the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council disclosed these startling considerations during trialogues on Tuesday, provoking strong condemnation from human rights organisations, including Save the Children, EuroMed Rights and the Border Violence Monitoring Network.
This potential shift in policy represents a significant departure from existing proposals, which already permitted the placement of children over the age of twelve within border procedures. The original proposal has already failed to comply with the internationally recognised definition of a child, which does not allow any discrimination between persons under eighteen in the enjoyment of their fundamental rights and procedural guarantees.
“European leaders are debating the age at which children should be locked up at EU borders. Their alleged crime: seeking protection in a region that prides itself on exporting human rights to the world. Europe should stand as a haven, protecting and welcoming children instead of detaining and deporting them,” said Willy Bergogné, Europe Director at Save the Children. “Our asylum system must work to safeguard children with a Migration Pact that ensures, not threatens, children’s rights. This means no child detention or deportation, swift family reunions, and all migration decisions made in children’s best interests.”
The revelation coincides with the leak of a paper exposing the uncompromising stance of the Spanish Presidency on the controversial new pact on migration and asylum. With the hope of securing political deals on the pact by Christmas, the document outlines key points, including disregard by officials for concerns about widespread racial profiling and screening across the EU. Despite opposition from the European Parliament, the provision regarding racial profiling remains a strong priority for the EU Council.
The proposal will preserve a principle called the “legal fiction of non-entry”, whereby individuals who set foot in a processing facility — which can be anywhere in the EU — aren’t automatically regarded as being on EU soil, even though they technically are, because their presence has not been authorised. This allows the lowering of standards, such as swifter border procedures. The presidency will also preserve the principle of accepting relocated refugees and providing funding to third countries for border externalisation as measures “of equal value”.
Hope Barker, Senior Policy Analyst at the Border Violence Monitoring Network, labelled the proposal a “dystopian” move and part of a broader humanitarian disaster. Barker urged negotiators to reconsider the new pact; emphasised its disregard for rights and liberties and labelled it ill-considered and inconsistent with Europe’s professed values.