In the context of Russian’s aggression against Ukraine, the Joint Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Committee on Development (Parliament) debated on the implementation of a temporary protection directive and humanitarian assistance to the displaced population, in particular children. There was an exchange of views with Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs; Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management; the representative of UNHCR and the representative of UNICEF.
During the plenary session, a debate took place on the motion for a resolution implementing a protection for children and young people fleeing the war against Ukraine. The text, tabled by the EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens/EFA and the Left groups, was adopted on April 7th by 509 votes to 3, with 47 abstentions.
According to the latest reports, over 3.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the war, a figure which is expected to increase. Most of these refugees have fled to EU neighboring countries, namely Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Czechia, as well as to the Republic of Moldova. Women and children make up 90 % of all refugees fleeing Ukraine with almost half of the refugees fleeing Ukraine of school age. Moreover, children, especially when unaccompanied, are at increased risk of violence, abuse and exploitation and there is an increased risk for children of going missing and falling victim to trafficking, especially when moving across borders.
Parliament called for the creation of safe passages and humanitarian corridors for children fleeing the conflict, both those who are unaccompanied and those with families, and for the provision of the urgent help needed by children who are internally displaced, stranded in, or unable to leave encircled areas. Child protection officers should also be present at the border in order to identify the vulnerabilities of these children, in particular by accurately identifying and recording the child’s nationality, statelessness or risk of statelessness on arrival, and referring them to the adequate services, including psychosocial and maternal health support.
The resolution also called for:
- The promotion of relocation mechanisms including safe, fast and coordinated transportation across the Member States for children and their families already present in neighboring Member States, especially for unaccompanied children and children with disabilities, who require specific care, in close cooperation with Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian consular services in the EU, where needed for health reasons.
- A coordinated approach between Member States in the programming and implementation of EU funds and include dedicated measures to invest in children and young people in their national recovery and resilience plans in order to access the fund, as per the Next Generation pillar of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Cohesion Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE).
- Flexibility to be shown in cases where administrative documents are missing.
- Increased funding of the European Child Guarantee with a dedicated budget of at least 20 billion euros in order to combat the poverty that is affecting children and their families and to contribute to the goal of reducing poverty by at least 15 million by 2030.
The following week, the Foreign Affairs Council (Council of EU) discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and reaffirmed its support to Ukraine. Ministers highlighted the importance of accountability for the gross violations of international law. Therefore, they will support the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor and the Ukrainian prosecutor financially and with staff on the ground. The EU advisory mission will be deployed to cooperate in the investigation and collection of evidence.
The Council also tackled the possibility of increasing political and financial support to Ukraine, as well as the issues of counter disinformation about the conflict in Ukraine.
On April 13th, several press releases have been issued on increased support to Ukraine:
- The Council adopted a decision amending the mandate of the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine). Under the amended mandate, EUAM Ukraine will also provide support to Ukrainian authorities to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of any international crimes committed in the context of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine.
- In view of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the Council decided to introduce exceptions to restrictive measures for exclusively humanitarian purposes in Ukraine.
- The Council adopted two decisions increasing to 1.5 billion euros the reference amount for assistance measures under the European Peace Facility, which currently enables the EU to support the Ukrainian armed forces.
- Council agrees on the exchange of Ukrainian hryvnia banknotes into EU currencies to support people escaping the war in Ukraine. All Ukrainians who have fled the Russian-led war will soon be able to convert their Ukrainian banknotes into local currency in all EU countries.