European Migration Network Ad-Hoc Query on. Requested by UK EMN NCP on 23rd of July 2008

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1 European Migration Network Ad-Hoc Query on Safe reception arrangements for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs) in countries of return Background Information Ad hoc query that has been launched: Requested by UK EMN NCP on 23rd of July 2008 Researchers in the UK Border Agency are currently reviewing how unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs), whose asylum claims have failed, can be safely returned to their countries of origin. An unaccompanied asylum seeking child is defined as someone who; - is under the age of 18; - is applying for asylum in their own right; and - is separated from both parents, and is not being cared for by an adult who by law or custom has responsibility to do so. We would be grateful if you could answer the following questions about any arrangements your country has within countries of origin to help return failed UASCs in a safe and sustainable manner. Questions: 1. Does your country have any arrangements within countries of return for helping unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are returned to do so safely? If yes, please describe these arrangements. This might be funding for, or direct provision of, facilities for UASCs offering accommodation/ education such as a school/ family reunification or any other support. We are interested in finding out: a) Which countries of return the arrangements operate in. b) What assistance is provided (e.g. housing/ social work/ education/ funding to government for services/ money direct to UASC etc.). c) What mechanisms are in place to trace children s families and reunite them safely? d) How long returned children are assisted for. e) Who is involved in implementing the arrangements (European host government/ NGOs/ contractors etc)? f) Who funds these arrangements? g) Whether you have experienced any problems in implementing these arrangements? 1 of 14

2 2. Responses Belgium We do not have any arrangements as such. However, we financed an IOM-project of which the aim was the reintegration of unaccompanied minors in the DR Congo (see attachment). The Belgian Red Cross also provide family tracing services if the child or his tutor agrees. In case of "INADs" (unaccompanied minors refused at the border), we always provide accompaniment to the country of origin (return flight). Further details about Belgium s IOM project:- This project builds on the implementation of the IOM project Reinforcement of NGO and family capacity to support the reintegration and reinsertion of street children and unaccompanied minors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Phase I and II) that has established capacity of Congolese NGOs to assist street children and returning unaccompanied minors in their reinsertion and reintegration process. This third phase of the project aims to further support and strengthen the capacity of the two Congolese NGOs, Don Bosco/boys and Don Bosco/girls who are providing assistance to street children in the Congolese capital Kinshasa. Through capacity building of the selected NGOs, the project will provide assistance to 40 street children or young adults and thereby ensure appropriate services for their sustainable reintegration in the Congolese society. Reinforced capacity of the selected NGOs will also benefit returning unaccompanied minors from Belgium and Europe who will be able to profit from reinforced reception, reinsertion and reintegration facilities in DRC. The NGOs Don Bosco girls/boys will provide street children with accommodation, assistance for family reunification, continued education, professional orientation and vocational training, as necessary. Based on needs identified during the previous phases of the project, the third phase will also pay particular attention to health assistance and psychological support for beneficiary children. Sustainable family reunification and future perspective of the child and its family will be assured through provision of special assistance for the set-up of micro-projects, ameliorating the living conditions and economic situation of 40 Congolese families or independent young adults. This mechanism has been tested throughout the second phase of the project and a number of families were able to reinsert their child within the family context due to the provision of grants. IOM will implement these income-generating activities in close cooperation with the two Don Bosco institutes, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Congolese Employment Office (ONEM). Bulgaria Czech Republic We do not have any arrangements of the kind you describe. It seems we are basically in the same situation as the UK. As a rule we do not return unaccompanied minors to third countries, unless the minors ask for return and unless it is proven that the return is in their interest, therefore we are virtually not in need of such arrangements. Thus some of your questions cannot be answered. Our authorities only arranged with Slovakia or Romania for return of children who had ran away from facilities for institutional or protection care, so that they would be brought back to the facilities. This is perhaps only loosely linked to what you mean. (b) In case that the ability of parents to take care of the children is doubted, children are put into facilities for institutional care in the countries of origin. This does not usually concern third countries, as the institutional care have to be at least on the same 2 of 14

3 level as in the Czech Republic to allow us to return an unaccompanied minor. EMN Ad-Hoc query: Safe reception arrangements for UASCs (c) In tracing children s families, our diplomatic missions in the countries of origin contact local authorities or the International Social Services. In sensitive cases, IOM deals with local authorities. Since the data on the children tend to be delicate, we do not contact local NGOs. (e) With reference to the /b/ answer above, government of the country of origin implements this part of return process. Denmark a) Which countries of return the arrangements operate in? Denmark operates as a rule with all countries concerning safe reception arrangements for unaccompanied children (UASCs), whose asylum claims have failed. Safe reception arrangements for unaccompanied asylum children was in August 2007 extended by the Danish Government, so that the Danish Alien Act require further development of cross-sector collaboration and coordination for the reintegration of different groups of vulnerable migrants which may include groups of migrants such as unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. The Danish Governments Action Plan sees children as an especially vulnerable group in need of special attention in the return process world wide. A pilot project will facilitate preparations for individually tailored voluntary return and reintegration of an estimated 50 vulnerable migrants from Denmark to their countries of origin. Lessons learnt from this pilot will be used to further develop the coordination mechanism and return and reintegration services to ensure that they meet the best interests of vulnerable migrants also in the future. The 12 month duration of the project will allow time for developing the coordination mechanism and for the migrants to make an informed decision about voluntary return and for the return and reintegration process to be carried out and monitored. b) What assistance is provided (e.g. housing/ social work/ education/ funding to government for services/money direct to UASC etc.)? According to present Danish legislation, unaccompanied minors must be given the offer of a prepared return and reintegration assistance if they have not received a residence permit in Denmark. The complexity of each migrant s situation requires an individualized and multi-faceted approach based on strong coordination between all parties involved in pre-departure, return and post-arrival arrangements. The offer for a prepared return is conditional on voluntary return. If the unaccompanied child does not want to leave the country after receiving a rejection on residence permit the person can be returned forcefully. The assistance provided can be described as two main activities: 1) Individualized information provision / counselling: Assessment of eligibility for programme; Counseling and information; Provision of return-related country information 3 of 14

4 2) Individualized return and reintegration assistance: Arrangement of return transportation services: If the minor and, if necessary, the personal representative accept that the minor returns voluntarily, IOM will make the necessary travel arrangements from Denmark to the final destination in the country of origin, including transit and reception assistance. IOM will escort the minor to the country of origin if no other escort is available. The escort might (also) be the Danish Red Cross personal representative or others as determined to be qualified persons. At the child s arrival to the country IOM will provide reception assistance, coordinate hand over of the child to the parents/guardian and provide reintegration assistance. For unaccompanied minors returning without consent reception and reintegration assistance in the country of origin will be available upon explicit request from the minor or the personal representative. Transit assistance at airports: For unaccompanied minors, the local IOM mission will coordinate the handover of the child to the parents/guardian, preferably already at the airport. If there is no IOM presence in the country, IOM will try to arrange reception by another organization or agency. Transportation to the final destination: When needed, the returnee will be provided with onward transportation to the final destination in the country of origin. If necessary, temporary/overnight accommodation can also be arranged. Development of reintegration plan: The IOM mission in the receiving country will be responsible for implementation of reintegration assistance and follow-up according to the returnee s reintegration plan, developed by the returnee, partners and IOM prior to the return from Denmark. The reintegration plan will be produced with the input of the IOM mission in the country of return and be subject to local limitations as regards reintegration services in the country of return. If the Danish authorities have decided that an unaccompanied minor is obliged to return the country of origin, the DIS will decide by an administrative decision on a case-by-case basis that the minor shall be provided with IOM services after the return and DIS will require IOM to provide input and support for the development of an action plan/reintegration plan for the prepared return of the minor. After the personal representative/guardian of the minor has signed a declaration of consent that the minor is to be provided with reintegration assistance upon the return and that documents in the case can be shared with IOM, DIS will share information from the minor s case on family relations, health conditions etc. with IOM. Possible components in a reintegration plan for a child are: Arrange for children to be re-united with their parents IOM will arrange for children, where their parents or others caretakers are known to the DIS, to meet the children in the country of origin. Education / vocational training IOM can assist the returnees with arranging the successful re-entering of children in the educational system or attending vocational training. Reintegration funds can be utilized to pay as for example fees for educational establishments, including study materials, and board; Cash-for-care In some cases, the ability of parents to take over responsibility for returned unaccompanied minors may 4 of 14

5 depend entirely on the family s financial situation. In these cases, cash-for-care paid to the caretakers is a possibility, though reintegration assistance under this project will as a rule be offered in kind and not in cash; Shelter / rehabilitation centers Some children may be in need of temporary accommodation in a dedicated shelter after the return. Psycho-social care and counseling Medical care If the returnee needs special medical care, funds allotted to reintegration assistance may in part or entirely be used to pay for medical assistance in the country of return. Monitoring of reintegration process With regard to unaccompanied minors, depending on available resources, IOM will endeavour to monitor the reintegration process up to six months after return, if there is permission from the guardian in the country of return. Minors are monitored for a longer period than adults because they are regarded as being more vulnerable. IOM will pay visits to the child to monitor the child s overall reintegration and the impact of the reintegration support implemented for the child (such as educational or economic reintegration support). c) What mechanisms are in place to trace children s families and reunite them safely? See answer under b) 2. As part of the above described procedure, The Danish government has suggested, that the already existing tracing program through Red Cross is extended. It is of great concern for The Danish Government, that the identity of the parents of unaccompanied minors is established in order to reunite the parties. The extended tracing program has not yet been implemented and is still in the preparation phase. d) How long returned children are assisted for? See answer under b) 2. e) Who is involved in implementing the arrangements (European host government/ NGOs/ contractors etc)? The Danish Red Cross and International Organization for Migration (IOM). f) Who funds these arrangements? The Danish Immigration Service (DIS). 5 of 14

6 g) Whether you have experienced any problems in implementing these arrangements? Too early to say at this stage. Germany Estonia Germany does not have any such arrangements. Estonia doesn t have any arrangements within countries of return for helping unaccompanied asylm seeking children who are returned. Although, the expulsion of a minor shall be organised in co-ordination with the competent state agencies of the admitting country and, if necessary, of the transit country and protection of the rights of the minor shall be ensured, according to the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act. At a border checkpoint a notation with regard to crossing the border shall be entered in the travel document of a person to be expelled, and the alien shall be sent to a foreign state or handed over to a representative of the admitting country. In the case of voluntary return the Estonian Migration Foundation (EMF) with the support of European Refugee Fund, provides assistance to voluntary returning asylum seekers, since As a support to voluntary returnee EMF offers both consultation and financial support. EMF s consultant gives personal social and legal advice and in case of need, some material aid to cover costs of returning. To make the return as easy as possible EMF also gives it s best to make initial links with the country of destination (e.g. help to find a place to stay). As far as the experience with unaccompanied asylum seeking children, there are none in Estonia s practice so far. So, it is hard to say how the process in reality looks like. Ireland Overview In Ireland, where a non-eea unaccompanied minor wishes to be reunited with their family in the home country and it is deemed to be in their best interests, (whether an asylum applicant or living illegally in Ireland), the return is carried out with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration under the terms of the Voluntary Assistance Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP). The Health Services Executive (who make the final decision on what is in the best interests of a child) and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform also play a key role in the return of unaccompanied minors. IOM Dublin began assisting unaccompanied minors through a pilot project started in November 2003 after a number of referrals of minors had been made to the general Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme. The VARRP Unaccompanied Minors project was extended in 2006 to include a component for Aged out Minors. Since the conclusion in December 2007 of the specific programme for the return of minors and aged-out minors, returns of this vulnerable group are progressed under the terms of the regular VARRP for 2008 which is funded through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Principles - Voluntary Return must be in the best interests of the child. IOM will at all times uphold the best interests of the child. This process will automatically involve and require the support of the social workers, legal guardians, the minor themselves, and the family in country of origin. - The country of origin and family situation must be assessed as appropriate for the child s return. - The parents or guardians must accept the child. 6 of 14

7 - The child must accept the return. - All decisions on return must take a multi-agency approach. Assistance Provided - Assistance with country of origin family assessments and family tracing (capacity varies depending on country of origin, in the main carried out by local social services by agreement, on occasion can be conducted by IOM staff where available). These activities help to inform a decision on return. - Counselling for return initiated where return is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. - Travel arrangements, transportation and documentation completed. - Departure, transit and arrival assistance provided. - Escorts provided to assist with the journey. - Reintegration assistance (A Return, Reintegration and Care Plan is completed by IOM staff and social worker which includes monitoring and follow up activities for a 12 month period). Upon Return The level of assistance provided upon return is dependant on the country of return and the presence of an IOM office and/ or partner organisations on the ground. IOM will provide through the programme a reintegration grant, which can be used by the UAM for school/education purposes (fees, uniforms, books etc.) Alternatively this grant may be used by the UAM s family for income generating activities (through a small business venture, or vocational/ educational training for a family member), if it will help to make them more employable and/ or financially secure which will impact the life of UAM and help in their sustainable return. All use of the reintegration grant is discussed prior to return, and a thorough needs assessment is completed by the child s social worker, which in turn helps to inform the best use of the grant to assist in the child s return. If there are specific needs which cannot be met by local social services, NGOs or other, the grant can also cover these costs (such as medical, psychosocial or other). All efforts are made to link in to local social services and state agencies who can monitor the reunification process and any child protection concerns and provide reports to the Health Service Executive in Ireland upon request. IOM also endeavors to identify other services as required or requested by the social workers in Ireland. IOM staff in country of return administer, monitor and follow up on the use of the reintegration grant at regular intervals (3, 6 and 12 months). Countries of Return Countries of return have included Nigeria, Russia, Tanzania, Romania, Bolivia, South Africa. Nigeria - The majority of applications and returns being from/to Nigeria, this is where IOM Dublin has developed the capacity most for undertaking the work described above. Greece Problems Encountered - Trafficking - Alternative Care arrangements in country of origin (where family cannot be located or a child cannot be returned to their care) - Lack of standardized social work procedures in various countries of origin. - Building effective working relationships with state agencies/ organizations capable of undertaking assessments on our behalf. 7 of 14

8 Spain General information on the actions carried out as regards unaccompanied minors is attached hereto, as there is no specific programme for asylum seekers. 1. Actions regularly taken regarding unaccompanied foreign minors The normal intervention model with the MENAs is based primarily on activating guardianship and social and educational intervention resources with the minors by the Institutions entrusted with their care; guardianship is exercised through either public centres or those subsidised by the child protection entities. At the same time, the administrative procedures are started to return the minor to their country of origin, either to their own family or to the institutions responsible for caring for the minors. Only a very small percentage of the returns agreed upon are actually carried out due to the difficulties encountered in family reunification, the lack of protection services in the countries of origin or the slowness and complexity of administrative return procedures. 2. Towards a global focus on handling MENAs In order to tackle the handling of MENAs in a more integrated way, progress has been made towards a global focus, considering the prevention of illegal emigration by these minors, their protection and their assisted return home. Favouring this global focus requires: Establishing close co-operation with the minors countries of origin. Providing technical support to the children s countries of origin to contribute to the creation and development of intervention strategies for children at risk, as well as to generate opportunities in those countries and prevent the illegal immigration of children. The bilateral agreements with the countries of origin formally indicate their obligations and actions in prevention, protection and assisted returns for these minors. Agreements have already been signed with Romania and Senegal, and a similar agreement is being negotiated with Morocco. Co-operation with the countries of origin essentially focuses on: Promoting co-operation in the fight against trafficking gangs, many of which are specialised in minors, due to the fact that legislation on the protection of minors applies to the legislation of the European Union's Member States rather than immigration legislation. Minors consequently cannot be deported unless sufficient guarantees are in place as regards the relevant minor protection services in the countries of origin to ensure return to their families. Developing information and awareness-raising programmes on the risks of illegal immigration in the countries of origin aimed at minors, their families and society as a whole. Contributing to the development of strategies geared toward providing care for minors and their families in the countries of origin by providing support for the setting up of specialised services and the training of professionals in the field of protection for minors. 8 of 14

9 Contributing to the development of job opportunities in countries of origin by developing occupational training programmes that are closely linked to local or regional job markets, as well as to the job offers included in the Annual Contingent that Spain makes available for such countries on the basis of bilateral agreements for the hiring of foreign workers. Promoting the creation of institutional reception and/or educational mechanisms for minors returned as a result of administrative return decisions concerning unaccompanied foreign minors, thereby associating return with the notion of assistance in such cases. Resources from the AENEAS Programme are being used to carry out some of the aforementioned actions, particularly in the case of Morocco and Senegal. France Italy Cyprus Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Hungary The Italian legislation doesn t provide for return of unaccompanied asylum seeking minor. It s instead provided for their protection since the moment they are checked their young age and since they are not accompanied by any of the two parents. Our law provides that they have to enter the social services structures of local municipalities if don t seek asylum or the reception centres of Protection System for Asylum Applicants and Refugees (Sprar) if seeking asylum. In any case for them it s foreseen the appointments of an official tutorship by the Court for minors and they cannot in any way be repatriated until the age of majority (like in UK, over the age of 18). Cyprus has very limited numbers of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum and therefore there is no such arrangement at the moment. Latvian NCP informs that neither the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, nor the State Border Guard, that are the main institutions dealing with asylum issues, till now have not had any cases when unaccompanied asylum seeking minors are returned. Therefore we can not give any answers on your query. Malta Malta has to date no established arrangement with countries of origin in connection with the safe return of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (USAC). Whenever the Refugee Commissioner receives asylum applications from unaccompanied minors, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner is bound bv law to inform the Director for Social Welfare Standards of the presence of the unaccompanied minor/s. Such notification is referred to the Age Assessment Team of the Organisation for the Integration and Welfare of Asylum Seekers, (OIWAS) for the purpose of assessing the veracity of the age claimed by the applicant. 9 of 14

10 If it results that the asylum applicant is an unaccompanied minor the asylum interview will take place only in the presence of his/her legal guardian once this is appointed. Unaccompanied minors are accomodated in specially designated open centers for USACs, where they are entitled to stay until they are of age (18 years old). To date Malta has never returned any unaccompanied minor who was a failed asylum seeker. Netherlands a) Which countries of return the arrangements operate in. The Netherlands have arrangements within Angola and DR Congo. b) What assistance is provided (e.g. housing/ social work/ education/ funding to government for services/ money direct to UASC etc.). According to Dutch law the level of care has to be at least equivalent to local standards, in practice the level is higher than that. In the end the level of care is a subjective matter, but reception, schooling, care and health care are provided. For more information about the facilities in Angola see the website: c) What mechanisms are in place to trace children s families and reunite them safely? None. Yet, the existence of orphanages has turned out to be the best and most effective tracing tool the Netherlands have ever had. The orphanages in Angola and DR Congo were first and foremost a political tool to show returns are possible and action is taken by the government. Secondly, it is a legal tool that enables us to deny stay to minors from these countries. Also it is our impression that it has proven effective in lowering influx of minors. The actual returns show quite a different picture. Over the years about minors have returned. They were all so called UASC's. In the end they never reached the childrensvillages in Angola and DR Congo but have been collected from the airport by their parents (who were alledgedly deceased) upon arrival. Only one minor actually stayed a few days in one of the facilities before being collected by his parents. d) How long returned children are assisted for. After the child has been handed over to either the orphanage or are being re-united with their family members, they are no longer assisted by the Dutch authorities. e) Who is involved in implementing the arrangements (European host government/ NGOs/ contractors etc)? The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs find partners on their missions and trips around the world. IOM has also been involved. The childrens villages Mulemba (Angola) and Don Bosco (DR Congo) existed, we came in as co-sponsors. f) Who funds these arrangements? There is a structural and existing finance relation between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Forreign Affairs and Development Aid. Some money is reserved for these orphanages/childrens villages. IOM is also involved. 10 of 14

11 Austria Poland g) Whether you have experienced any problems in implementing these arrangements? Answer: no problems have been encountered with IOM or other partners. Poland does not have any such arrangements with countries of return (nor does it have a lot of experience in returning minors). As far as legal provisions are concerned, article 67.1 of Polish act on granting protection to aliens on the territory of the Republic of Poland (of 13 June 2003, with further amendments) only states that: 1. Unaccompanied minor, whose asylum claims have failed and the expulsion decision was issued, remains in a foster care institution until s/he is handed over to relevant body or organization in the country of origin, competent in the field of minors. Portugal Romania Slovenia Portugal does not have any such arrangements. Romania doesn't have these kind of arrangement with countries of origin. The procedure applicable by Romanian authorities is as follows: In the situation of minor aliens who enter the territory of Romania unaccompanied or who remain unaccompanied after they having entered the territory of Romania, the Romanian Immigration Office and its territorial units shall proceed as follows: a) establish their identity as well as the way by which they have entered the country; b) without regard of the manner in which they have entered Romania, they shall be ensured representation by a competent institution according to the law, which shall also ensure necessary protection and care, including accommodation in special centers for protection of minors under the same conditions as for Romanian minors; c) initiate measures to identify the parents, without regard of the parents place of residence, for the purpose of family reunification; d) before the parents have been identified, minors of school age shall be granted access to the education system; e) in case the minor s parents do not reside on the territory of Romania, he shall be returned to the parents country of residence or to the country where other family members have been identified, with their agreement; f) in the case the parents or any other family members cannot be identified or if the minor is not accepted by the country of origin, he/she shall be granted the right to temporary residence on the territory of Romania. For the purpose of identification of adequate solutions, the Romanian Migration Office shall cooperate with other institutions, as well as with national and international organizations, specialized in the field of minor s protection. Please be informed that the provisions concerning the safe reception of unaccompanied minors are not detailed in any of our bilateral agreements in the field of return. Nevertheless according to the Article 60 of the Aliens Act, return may not be conducted to the country of origin or to a third country which is willing to accept the minor until suitable reception is provided. The cases of return of minors are conducted by the Aliens centre. In such cases the Social Security Centre is informed immediately in order to provide the guardian of the minor. The guardian takes care of the minor and assist in the matters of the minor s well being. The guardian assists when making arrangements of return and for suitable reception of the minor in the 11 of 14

12 Slovak Republic Sweden country of return. The guardian takes part in the minor s escort. a) Which countries of return the arrangements operate in. The Swedish Migration Board has no agreement with international or national organisations on return arrangements or follow up on unaccompanied minors. b) What assistance is provided (e.g. housing/ social work/ education/ funding to government for services/ money direct to UASC etc.). Since the 1th of July 2006 the Swedish Migration Board do have a shared responsibility with Swedish Municipalities for receiving unaccompanied minors. Municipalities sign an agreement with the Migration Board on taking the responsibility to provide unaccompanied minors with housing and relevant/ needed social care. The social care emanate from the principle, the best interest of the child concerning housing facilities, to locate parents and other relatives and the child s need of social services. The child is provided with a guardian, a person who replace the parent. This person is supporting the child in all daily activities as well as to find the parents. The Migration Board is responsible for the asylum case, the investigation of the child s need of protection and for administrating financial claims from the Municipality and from the child/guardian. c) What mechanisms are in place to trace children's' families and reunite them safely? Tracing is done by the guardian on request from the child through The Swedish Red Cross. Contacts may also take place with Swedish foreign offices in the country of origin. In case of repatriation the responsibility is on the municipality and the guardian to motivate the child to return. The reunification is prepared before the departure and the child is escorted by migration staff. The escorting person is making sure that the agreed on reception arrangements in the country of origin is working properly. Occasionally, support and assistance has been provided by IOM. d) How long returned children are assisted for. A returning child is provided with their weekly allowances, sometimes money for one extra week. e) Who is involved in implementing the arrangements (European host government/ NGOs/ contractors etc)? f) Who funds these arrangements? The Swedish Migration Board through budget allocation. 12 of 14

13 g) Whether you have experienced any problems in implementing these arrangements? EMN Ad-Hoc query: Safe reception arrangements for UASCs Finland There is no definition of an unaccompanied minor in the Finnish Aliens Act. In practice, however, what is understood by an unaccompanied minor in Finland corresponds to the definitions of the EU directives. Section 6 of the Aliens Act also states that in the application of the Act, a minor is understood to be a child under 18 years of age. The number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers was 98 in This year, until the end of June, 111 unaccompanied minors have sought for asylum in Finland. The majority of these applicants come from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, and they have been granted a residence permit in Finland (except few Dublin cases). The number of rejections among unaccompanied minor asylum seekers is low, in (out of which 12 on the basis of the Dublin Regulation) and this year 16 (out of which 12 on the basis of the Dublin Regulation). Our Aliens Act contains a provision on tracing a parent or some other person responsible for the actual guardianship of an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker. This amendment was made on the basis of the EU Qualification Directive and it entered into force in early According to Section 105b of the Aliens Act, to further the interest of an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker, the Finnish Immigration Service must, if possible, endeavour without delay to trace his or her parents or some other person responsible for his or her actual guardianship. It is also required that the information on the parent or some other person responsible for the minor s actual guardianship must be collected, processed and circulated on a confidential basis, as provided in the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (621/1999). In practice, tracing often involves working closely with International Social Services (on the basis of a cooperation agreement), and when possible also with the relevant Finnish diplomatic missions abroad. The Finnish Red Cross provides family tracing services if a referral is made directly by the child or by his or her representative. One of the main challenges of tracing is to find a right balance between the requirement to process the application of a minor with urgency and the time necessary for tracing. Another challenge is that the majority of the unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Finland come from countries in which it is extremely difficult to carry out any meaningful tracing activities. In short, our experiences on tracing show that it is very resource-demanding with only limited results. If no parent or any other person responsible for a minor s actual guardianship has been traced, no decision on removal is made but a minor is usually granted a residence permit on the basis of compassionate grounds (Section 52). If a parent or some other person responsible for a minor s actual guardianship has been traced and there are no grounds for granting international protection nor any other grounds for a residence permit, an application is rejected. In Finland, if an application is rejected, a decision on refusal of entry or deportation is issued at the same time, unless special reasons have arisen for not making a decision on removing the applicant from the country. This means that while making the decision not to grant a residence permit, the Finnish Immigration Service also needs to take into account all factors pro and contra sending a child back to his or her parents, including any reasons the child may give that would justify not returning him or her to his/her parents. In addition to the family tracing systems, we do not have any arrangements with countries of origin to help return unaccompanied minors. The issue of returning unaccompanied minors has, however, been on the agenda, and was addressed for instance in the Government s Immigration Policy Programme (2006) but so far no concrete measures have been taken. 13 of 14

14 United Kingdom The UK Border Agency s current approach to returning UASCs is to trace their parents or family so that they may be returned to them. This often involves working closely with the relevant British diplomatic post, representatives of the country concerned, NGOs both in the UK and in the country of return, and with the Local Authority. The British Red Cross provide family tracing services if a referral is made directly by the child. International Social Services may also be able to assist. If enquiries show that adequate reception and care arrangements can be made, and that a parent, guardian or other person who can be trusted to care for the child s welfare will be able to meet the child at the port of arrival, then the case will be referred for removal. Acceptable reception arrangements can vary from case to case and country to country. Case Owners must consider child protection issues when sending a child back to the parents, including any reasons the child may give that would justify not returning them to their parents. Other than the family tracing systems described above, the UK does not have any arrangements with countries of origin to help return UASCs safely. 14 of 14

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