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[WATCH] Funds allocated to protect child migrants ‘lost in red tape’

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca urges European Commissioner to encourage leaders to resist pandering to populist sentiment: 'Push for politicians to be leaders, because the unpopularity of the subject is being driven by populists'

yannick_pace
Yannick Pace
27 January 2017, 11:51am
EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos meets Wedeb Desira, a woman who reached Malta as a minor in 2002 and now lives in the UK (Photo: DOI)
EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos meets Wedeb Desira, a woman who reached Malta as a minor in 2002 and now lives in the UK (Photo: DOI)
'In the eyes of these children, I see my own'
Public acceptance of migration phenomenon and the need to act with compassion is one of the biggest obstacles, standing in the way of effective migration policy, according the Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration.

“The money is there but if we do not get people on board this will not succeed,” he said, while acknowledging that so far, there has not been an effective discussion on integration coming from the highest level of the EU.

Avramopoulos was speaking during a panel discussion where he discussed child migration together with President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, home affairs minister Carmelo Abela, Maud de Boer Buquicchio, the President of Missing Children Europe and Jose Carreira, executive director of EASO.

Avramopoulos stressed the importance of member states taking up the responsibility as agencies and European institutions cannot tackle these challenges alone. “Some countries are very good at rhetoric but very bad at actually doing things,” he said, adding that he understood that many governments need to address their own political audiences but warned against “losing sight of the bigger picture.”

This was echoed by the President who appealed to the Commissioner to push for politicians to resist pandering to populist sentiment with the decisions they take.

“Push for politicians to be leaders, because the unpopularity of the subject is being driven by populists. I was once a politician, and people like us who believe politicians are meant to be leaders should be four square behind what they believe in and should not be afraid to speak up,” she said.

One of the main points emerging from the discussion was that Europe’s fragmented approach to migration has led a considerable discontinuity of care afforded to asylum seekers and migrants looking for a decent life.

“Systems are failing us when it comes to giving protection to migrant children. A lot of money has been dedicated to solving the problem is being absorbed by bureaucratic processes,” the President said.   

In addition to this, the need to disrupt human traffickers’ mode of operation was also highlighted as a main issue in tackling migration in its current form.

“One of the main objectives of EU and agencies, is to dismantle the modus operandi of the current migration flows, and a large part of this is human trafficking networks,” Carrera said, who added that children are very often worst affected by human trafficking with many children being exploited by these traffickers, even after they have arrived in Europe.

According to Europol, 10,000 unaccompanied children had disappeared across Europe in 2016.

Carrera stressed the need for there to be better sharing of information between agencies working on the ground and law enforcement institutions such as Frontex.

Members from the audience appealed to the panel members for more concrete action such as a common EU policy framework for protecting migrant children, giving more prominence to the migration agenda, establishing standards for asylum conditions for children as well as changing the criteria upon which asylum may be granted.

Avramopoulos acknowledged that more needed to be done. “Europe was caught by surprise and was not prepared,” he said. “Only 71 unaccompanied minors have so far been relocated from Greece and Italy and this is insufficient. We must improve and harmonise our procedures and we are determined to fill the gaps in the current system.”

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Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...
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