UNICEF National Committees in the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, worked on the development of child-specific country of origin reports (COI). These country reports (Child notices) describe the situation of children in countries of origin of migrant children.
This includes legal and practical information on education, health care, child protection, armed conflict, juvenile justice, trafficking etc.These Child Notices are meant to provide more information about the position of children who have fled or have been trafficked to Europe.
UNICEF believes that every child has the right to protection. This is even more important for children on the move. When making the decision whether a child will receive a residence permit or will be returned to their country of origin, the interest of the child should be the first consideration. This is based on Article 3 of the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC). In order to make such a decision, in the best interest of the child, there is a need for sufficient information about the country and the circumstances where the child is from.
In many European countries, authorities use country of origin reports (COI). These reports are used to determine whether someone is in danger in their own country and whether this person has the right to international protection through a refugee status or another form of residence. UNICEF finds that, in these reports, there is little attention given to children and their special position and interests.
Child Notices are child-focused country of origin reports: reports with information about the living conditions of children in a certain country. For example, information about the refusal or access to education and healthcare, information about the care provided by the government for unaccompanied minors, or information about how a government provides protection against violence. This information enables authorities to make a balanced assessment in the asylum procedure or in another procedure such as those designed to provide protection to trafficked children. When a country is too dangerous for children (for example if there is a high risk of child trafficking), or stands in the way of positive development for a child, then this should have consequences for the decisions made regarding the child.
The aim of the project is that the Child Notices will provide information about the living conditions of children in their countries of origin, for immigration authorities, legal guardians, mentors, lawyers and judges. This information is indispensable in asylum procedures in which children (and their parents) are involved or in other procedures considering the best interests of the child such as those designed to provide protection to trafficked children. The reports are essential for determining whether there are child-specific grounds for prosecution, and whether it is in the best interest of the child to stay or return to the country of origin. When it is decided that the child has to return to their country, it is important to have a clear view of the situation which the child will return to.
UNICEF developed an child-focused country of origin report about Afghanistan as a pilot in 2012. Different questions arose, for example whether a child could attend school, or safely walk the streets. The information in this child-focused country of origin report has been partially taken over in the current country report of the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The ultimate goal is that the authorities will actually use the information in the procedures. There is also a lack of child-specific information available in other European countries about the countries where children are from and are returned to. For this reason, UNICEF started the Child Notices project.
This project was a collaboration between UNICEF the Netherlands, UNICEF Belgium and UNICEF Sweden. In this project Child Notices have been written about Albania, Guinea, Morocco, Sudan and Afghanistan. It is funded by the European Return Fund (RF) of the European Commission and UNHCR was an advisor in the project. The project started in December 2013 and the last Child Notice was finalized in 2016. The Child Notices contain valuable background information for policy-makers as well as case workers, lawyers and other professionals in Europe who work with children coming from and/or going to the countries of origin, primarily in the fields of asylum and migration.
The reports are available in English and French.
This project is co-funded by the European Union