The number of child migrants entering Europe on their own is higher than ever before; almost 90,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in the European Union in2015 (Eurostat). Some have no documents and services have big problems deciding the age of some young people. Social workers are frequently caught up with these dilemmas and are concerned that the rights of children are sometimes being overlooked in the process.
European social workers have reviewed national practices to deal with age determination. Representatives from 23 European social work associations, meeting at the International Federation of Social Workers European Delegates meeting in Reykjavik (Iceland) compared the widely differing approaches adopted in different countries. The representatives voiced concern about the way that children´s rights could be ignored and also the pressures this placed on social workers, who have no special training or competence to do age determination.
The IFSW Delegates approved a statement saying that the first responsibility of social workers is to ensure that the rights of children are respected and that their voice is heard. They also resolved that age determination should always be a multiprofessional process. IFSW will develop a policy and guidance for social workers about age determination.
´Child migrants have already experienced great trauma before their case is assessed by immigration authorities´, said IFSW Europe President, Ana Lima. ´Social workers have a special duty to stand alongside unaccompanied children throughout the process and to ensure that their needs are met, not only at the time of assessment, but in the difficult times which follow. If we do not make this possible, there are great risks for the child and for the community. It is therefore inappropriate for social workers to determine age on their own.´
NOTE TO EDITORS: IFSW Europe is one of the five regional divisions of IFSW. IFSW Europe has 39 member associations in 37 countries, with a total of 170.000 social workers . IFSW Europe e.V. is governed by the Delegates Meeting held this year in Reykjavik, Iceland on 26-28 May 2017.