IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF: Urgent action needed for guardianship from day 1
Appeal by the UN organizations to provincial children and youth focal points in view of more than 1,000 unaccompanied children in federal care
Vienna, 05 October 2022
On the occasion of the Conference of Provincial Children and Youth Focal Points on 6-7 October 2022 in Graz (Austria), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) appeal once again for establishing legal provisions to ensure guardianship for unaccompanied children who have fled to Austria from Day 1.
Time is pressing and the necessary steps should be taken as soon as possible in view of the current situation. According to the information available to UNHCR, there are currently more than 1,000 unaccompanied children in federal shelters, where adequate accommodation and care can hardly be guaranteed. In addition, a response to a parliamentary enquiry has shown that from January to July 2022 alone, over 5,000 unaccompanied children and young people disappeared from state care.
"The sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied children and young people who are accommodated in large accommodation facilities such as the Traiskirchen care center or who disappear without a trace is an alarm signal! There is an urgent need for action. A corresponding decision by the responsible focal points of the provincial governments at this week's conference would be an important step in this direction," says Christoph Pinter, Head of UNHCR Austria.
The current government program also foresees quick guardianship of unaccompanied minors. The Commission on the Best Interests of the Child, too, has repeatedly pointed out that there is a gap in protection, and advocated for guardianship from the start.
“Children and young people are a particularly vulnerable group. The Commission on the Best Interests of the Child highlighted the importance of guardianship from Day 1 in its report. The rapid appointment of qualified guardians would also significantly minimize the risk of child trafficking,” says Marian Benbow Pfisterer, Head of IOM Austria. Currently, children and young people between the ages of 14 and 18 who come to Austria without parents are largely on their own at the beginning of their asylum procedure. They have no support whatsoever with legal questions beyond the asylum procedure. Only when they are admitted to a care facility in a federal state do child and youth welfare authorities usually become active. At the moment, this often takes months. UNICEF Austria Managing Director Christoph Jünger emphasizes: "The children's rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child apply at all times and for every child. We are very concerned about the current situation. We ask and appeal to all those who are responsible not to abandon these children and to act now".
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