The Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project was launched with the objective to bring together judges, practitioners, academics and experts working in different areas where children rights are engaged, in an effort to encourage the exchange of good practices, step up the use of child-centred justice and ensure that the best interest of the child is a primary consideration in all procedures involving children who are separated or risk being separated from their parents and siblings.  

As the first public event launched under the Project, the April conference served as a launchpad for discussing the themes and values at the core of the initiative, introducing the main areas of law where the protection of separated children rights deserves closer attention. The event discussed in particular:

  • The issues raised by children rights as European citizens

  • The condition of children of imprisoned parents

  • Children involved in cross-border relocation and abduction situations

  • Children in public and private family law proceedings

  • Child asylum seekers and children victims of trafficking

  • Children litigating before the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child


The speakers to the 7 panels, spread among the 2 days, comprised representatives from the UK judiciary, officers of regional and EU institutions, distinguished international experts and academics, creating a valuable synergy between professionals engaged in various aspects of children protection.

Speakers included: Baroness Brenda Hale, Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court; Judge Ledi Bianku, European Court of Human Rights, Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, President of the Upper Tribunal's Immigration and Asylum Chamber, Dr Silvia Casale, former President of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Catriona Jarvis, Former Upper Tribunal Judge Immigration and Asylum Chamber, Kristīne Līcis, Representative of Latvia before the ECtHR, Elspeth Guild, partner at Kingsley Napley LLP and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary, University of London.

Day 1 – Discussing the rights of children as EU citizens, children of imprisoned parents, children relocation and abduction and child-friendly litigation before international and European mechanisms  

In light of the variety and specialist character of the issues under discussion, both days of the event adopted a mutual learning format, structured through a succession of dedicated expert panels.

Representatives of partner organisations Nuala Mole, Senior Lawyer and Founder of the AIRE Centre, Rebecca O’ Donnell, Lawyer and Co-Founder of Child Circle, Nela Pamukovic, ROSA, and Ursula Kilkelly, University College of Cork, opened the event and made remarkable contributions to several of the panels.

The topics covered during the morning session of Day 1 were channelled into 3 panels, focussing on the rights of children as EU citizens, the conditions of children in abduction and relocations procedures and litigation before international and European mechanisms, with expert contribution made by Judge Ledi Bianku, ECtHR, Kristīne Līcis, Latvian representative ECtHR, Elspeth Guild, Kingsley Napley.

The afternoon session, partially built on these topics to discuss the situation of children of imprisoned parents and the role of children in public and private law proceedings. The event examined the operation and procedural characteristics of the most common avenues of recourse at the international and European level, underlining how children rights are protected under each mechanism and stressing the existing flaws in children procedural status under the relevant procedures. The possibility for children to bring cases personally before international fora and the actual consideration given to the best interest of the child in the relevant case law was much debated.

DAY 2 – Looking at the rights of asylum seeking children and children who are victims of human trafficking in the international and European legal instruments and jurisprudence 

The first morning session of Day 2, saw the remarkable participation of Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, President of the Upper Tribunal's Immigration and Asylum Chamber and Catriona Jarvis, Former Upper Tribunal Judge Immigration and Asylum Chamber, who addressed the particular position of asylum seeking children, discussing the relevant international and European standards applicable to them and introducing the legal instruments, mechanisms and case law that can be used to address their needs.  

During the second session, chaired by Markela Papadouli, Legal Project Manager of the AIRE Centre, the speakers from the asylum panel were joined by Raza Husain, QC at Matrix Chambers, Chris Buttler, Barrister at Matrix Chambers and Parosha Chandran, Barrister at 1Pump Court. The panellists moved to consider the condition of children victims of human trafficking, looking at how this particularly vulnerable category is treated under EU law and discussing possible overlaps between trafficking and refugees law standards, so that practitioners in these fields are aware of the basic principles, similarities and differences applicable to each group.

Both panels placed particular emphasis on the dedicated pieces of legislation existing within the domain of EU law, with specific reference to the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and to the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Qualification Directive, the Reception Conditions Directive, The Dublin III Regulation) and the EU Trafficking Directive.

The session also looked at dedicated conventions and treaties protecting children rights at the regional and international level, with a focus to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNRC), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe Trafficking Directive.

The debate also addressed some ‘cross-over questions’, dealing with the particular implications that the issues analysed during Day 1 sessions are likely to produce on the situation of asylum seeking and trafficked children. The discussion considered in particular:

  1. The role of EU citizenship to the benefit of a child whose parents are asylum seekers   

  2. What role might the citizenship of the Union of the children (or one of the parents) have in making the child more vulnerable to being a victim of human trafficking

  3. The impact of the non-punishment and non-prosecution principle on children whose parents are/ have been victims of human trafficking

  4. The rights of the children of parents in immigration detention

Throughout the sessions, the discussion highlighted potential points of convergence and overlapping between the practice of the various areas of law concerned, in the spirit of the Project’s intent to consider how good practices and standards which prove to be effective in the protection of children in one legal domain can be transplanted and employed to boost children rights and safeguards in other sectors.    

The inspirational keynote speech given by Baroness Brenda Hale, with the introduction of Nuala Mole, successfully concluded the second day of the event.

The exceptionally engaged and diverse audience which contributed and participated to the two days showed the growing interest and need for action to uphold children rights in all situation where they are under threat, consolidating the compelling nature of the work carried under the Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project.