We offer specialist legal training and advice to lawyers representing children separated from their families.  

For 25 years the AIRE Centre has advised on and litigated (in the ECtHR, the CJEU and the UKSC) the protection offered by European law to children in a wide range of situations e.g. failure to protect, neglect, errors in taking into public care, relocation, abduction, parental deportation, management of parents’ prison sentences, child asylum seekers, child victims of trafficking. We  promote children’s best interests through advice, litigation, training, and research. This page will introduce you to our current project.

Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings

The Separated Children’s Project began on 1st Dec 2015. The project promotes a joined up child-centred approach by legal professionals who work with children separated (or being separated) from their families. It enables legal practitioners and judges to:

  • Share their experiences of the situation of separated children in all the different kinds of legal proceedings which affect them, e.g. taking children into care, contact and residence issues in private law disputes, relocation or abduction, the child victims of trafficking or whose parents are such victims, the effects on children of prisoners of sentencing and sentence management decisions, the situation of minor asylum seekers, including both accompanied and unaccompanied minors, the impact of immigration measures on children. It enables them to identify  best law and practice in one legal field with a view to applying it in another.

  • Learn - or expand their knowledge - how to use, for the benefit of separated children, the available European and international remedies, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the European Committee on Social Rights and the third Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3). Two of the project partner countries - Ireland and Belgium - have accepted the right of individual petition to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under OP3

  • Expand their familiarity with the relevant legislation and case law e.g. EU acquis (legislative and jurisprudential), the ECHR jurisprudence and the case law of the ESC and as it emerges of the UNCRC relevant to developing child-centred justice for children in situations where they and their parents or siblings are separated or being separated - for example in situations arising from children seeking international protection as asylum seekers or who are victims of trafficking,  who have been abducted or whose parents are imprisoned in another jurisdiction.

The approaches to children in the different judicial proceedings in these situations are compared and contrasted. The project brings together legal professionals (lawyers, judges and NGOs) from diverse but overlapping areas of expertise and jurisdictions. It is enabling legal practitioners and other professionals whose work in judicial proceedings affects children

  • to become more aware of the need to put the child at the centre of those proceedings, especially in situations in which they are not often recognised as having a role; and
  • to benefit from the exchange of knowledge of comparative law and practice so as to ensure that the conduct and outcomes of such proceedings always take full account of the best interests of the child as a primary consideration
  • to ensure that the voice of the child is heard appropriately.

We are hosting a series of events you can find links to the reports below -

  • Inaugural Event: Launch of Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project London, April 2016 - overview of the scope of the project 

  • Putting Children First: Protecting Children's Interest in Relocation and Abduction cases London, September 2016

  • Exploring the use and application of European and International Mechanisms for the Protection of Vulnerable and Separated Children Brussels, October 2016
  • Protecting the Rights of Trafficked and/or Asylum seeking Children Zagreb, November 2016

  • Further exploring the actual and potential use of European and international Mechanisms Dublin, March 2017

  • Relocation and Abduction: the child’s perspective London, June 2017

  • Forthcoming: further focus on child asylum seekers and child victims of trafficking Brussels, October 2017

We warmly welcome input from everyone who has expertise, experience and ideas of ways in which judicial proceedings can be improved in all the fields mentioned.  

The project is carried out by the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) in the United Kingdom, in partnership with  Child Circle in Belgium, Centre for Women War Victims (ROSA) in Croatia and the University College, Cork in Ireland and is part-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union.

In the context of the work we are doing for this project we have also been involved in recent litigation both in the UK and at the European Courts

Third party interventions

RE J [2015] UKSC 70 – 1996 Hague Convention on Child Protection

RE N [2016] UKSC 15 – transfer of proceedings to Hungary under art 15 BIIb reg

RE B [2016] UKSC 4 - habitual residence of a child removed to Pakistan

For further information about the Separated Children Project please email us at separated[email protected] or call us on Mondays to Fridays from 10:30am to 6pm on 020 7831 4276 

This publication has been produced with the financial support of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the AIRE Centre and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.