The EU Commission’s Justice and Consumers Directorate hosted the 12th European Forum on the Rights of the Child. More than 280 participants from across the EU and candidate countries attended, including several child speaker-delegates.

The AIRE Centre’s Senior Lawyer Nuala Mole was a key speaker at a plenary session which looked at what Key Challenges are Ahead of Us. {Other speakers on the panel included Manfred Nowak of the Global Detention project, Stephan Auer Stuger from Vienna City council and Martina Erb Klunemann a German children’s judge.}  

Nuala’s contribution focussed on the challenges posed children born as a result of new medical technologies for procreation, and on the need for Europe to recognise that Europe’s children come from many different cultures so that institutions like kafalaas an alternative to adoption must be recognised as playing their part in their package of rights. The courts – both national and European - must take on fully their responsibilities to make the best interests of children a primary consideration in their decision making and to ensure that the children themselves are always heard in this context. The higher courts, including the two European Courts, need to check if children were heard in lower proceedings and to ensure that overly technical rules are not applied to deprive children of access to European justice. In immigration and asylum judicial proceedings only judges with specialised child law training should sit as is the case in juvenile criminal justice and family law courts. More recognition administrative and judicial proceedings must be given to the plight – and the rights - of the children of imprisoned parents, particularly in the transfers of sentenced persons to serve their sentences near their families. Europe will carry for years the guilt of the migration management failures which have resulted in the deaths of so many migrant children (and adults) in the Mediterranean. European institutions- including the courts- must make the protection of the lives of those children a best interest to be given priority over narrower national political interests. Priority must be given to facilitating legal means for at least child asylum seekers to reach safety. And lastly, giving the vote in the European Parliament and municipal elections to 16/17year olds in all EU states would encourage a greater feeling of ownership of the democratic process and would serve to lessen feelings of exclusion.

The Forum focussed this year on three themes:

  • The protection of children in Migration
  • Children’s rights in an everchanging digital world
  • Children and young people’s participation on EU political and democratic life
  • Nuala also participated in the Workshop on Children in Migration
  • The end of the Forum was followed by the Launch of the Child Friendly Justice Network co-ordinated by Defence of Children International - a network which the AIRE Centre joined and to which it pledged its commitment.