The Polish legal system does not recognize the specific needs of migrant children and is not always focused on their welfare and best interests, according to the  Alternative Report prepared for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child by 13 non-governmental organizations. In Poland the rights of migrant children to education, health care, freedom, access to information, adequate accommodation and legal aid are regularly violated. In September, the Association for Legal Intervention met with the UN Committee at a Working Session to discuss the main problems with  safeguarding migrant children`s rights  in Poland.

“Polish legislation does not always recognize a child in a minor migrant. Too often, in the framework of legalization procedures, the authorities directly associate the stay of children in Poland with the legal status of parents. In such situations, care for the child becomes a secondary concern”, admits Katarzyna Słubik, President of the Association for Legal Intervention.

In its part of the report, the Association for Legal Intervention focused on systemic violations of children’s rights from foreign families, emphasizing that the Polish legal norms regulating administrative proceedings concerning legalization of residence, granting international protection or obliging a foreigner to return and placing in detention, the subject of which are foreign children staying in Poland under care, do not recognize the needs and attitudes of children.

According to the Association’s experts, the best interests of a migrant  children are not always safeguarded in proceedings concerning them. The Association indicated in the report that the authorities applying the law fail to have adequate procedures or knowledge of them.

The main challenges in protecting the rights of migrant children in Poland include:

  •     their imprisonment for migration reasons (detention);
  •     children’s poverty while in asylum procedures (insufficient financial support, especially for families with many children);
  •     lack of access to public health care for certain categories of migrant children;
  •     insufficient protection against xenophobia, racism and discrimination in education;
  •     the absence of mechanisms to assess the best interest of the child in migration procedures such as deportation, placement in detention centers, granting residence permits.

Each country that has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child is required to submit an official report on the implementation of this document every five years. The Polish government presented such a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child this year. In addition to the governmental sphere, non-governmental organizations prepared their report. The Alternative Report contains comments and recommendations regarding the state of observance of children’s rights in Poland. In September this year, during the Working Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Polish NGOs presented their report. Following both reports (of Polish government and NGOs), the Committee on the Rights of the Child will prepare Recommendations for Poland.

The following organizations participated in the preparation of the report: ATD Fourth World, Foundation We Give Power to Children, School with Class Foundation, J. A. Komeński Foundation for Child Development, Foundation for Dialogue, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Integration Foundation, Coalition for Family Foster Care, Foundation against Trafficking in Human Beings and Slavery La Strada, Polish Committee of EAPN, Association for Legal Intervention, Association SOS Children’s Villages in Poland. Entire work on the report was coordinated by UNICEF Poland.