Unaccompanied children: how to protect them and reconcile Ukrainian and European Union legislation

29 квітня 2022

The cases of young Ukrainians crossing the border of Ukraine without their parents - accompanied by strangers, volunteers, distant relatives or even on their own - are striking and have become known around the world. Since the beginning of the war, the Right to Protection has been drawing the attention of the international community to the need to create standards to protect these children. 

Tatiana Luzan, advocacy coordinator of the Right to Protection, spoke about the situation and work in this direction together with other organisations at the International Conference "War Aftermath: Reconsidering The Future Of Civil Society" in Warsaw. The topic of her presentation was the protection of children who cross the border unaccompanied and the harmonisation of Ukrainian and EU legislation in this area.

"Our foundation also received calls from parents who were desperate to send their children abroad with complete strangers because of the Russian atrocities going on at the time in Kharkiv, Zaporozhye and other cities. It was obvious to Right to Protection that it was time to intervene and also to involve colleagues from neighbouring countries in trying to resolve the situation," Tetyana Luzan said.

The joint efforts of Ukrainian and international organisations for the protection of children and women was to prepare a document defining at least minimum standards of protection for unaccompanied minors fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022. For example, on child custody and safety in another country as well as their safe return home later.

And the final draft was created and became a model for intergovernmental agreements regarding the proper maintenance of child rights, protection and custody.

Its recommendatory provisions are based on UN legal instruments as foundations and EU instruments. In particular, such as the EU Temporary Protection Directive and the related implementing decision on Ukraine, the European Parliament resolution of 7 April 2022 on EU protection of children and young people fleeing war in Ukraine.

"The standard also states that the return of unaccompanied children to Ukraine must be in accordance with the guidelines of the national authorities and in the best interests of the child. In this way, it is ensured that possible future obstacles to the return of young Ukrainians home to their parents are avoided. At the same time, the EU and member states have urged not to consider the termination of temporary protection as an automatic ground for sending Ukrainian children if the situation in Ukraine does not allow for a safe and lasting return to its territory," Tatiana concluded.