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"The report Closing a protection gap provides core standards that should inspire policies at national and European level in order to improve the protection of separated children in our continent. It also highlights the need for harmonizing the quality of guardianship systems all over Europe and within countries, where huge differences still persist. The goals set for guardians and policy makers are ambitious, but not impossible to attain. It is all about applying systematically these standards in all policies on separated children and using them holistically".
From the preface of the international report by Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
The need for better and harmonized protection of separated children
There are approximately 100.000 separated children in Europe. Separated children have the right to a guardian who protects their rights and best interests. Separated children can face risks in their country of origin, during their journey and in the host country. The type of protection and care a separated child receives from a guardian depends upon the country which the separated child has (often randomly) entered. These differences are not acceptable. All European countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and have the obligation to take into account the special needs of separated children. Proper guardianship systems are essential to assist in finding a durable solution for separated children, whether that be integration into the host country, transfer to another country or return to the country of origin.
"It is hard to be alone, you know. I think a good guardian is someone who understands and feels you who does not only think about you as a refugee, who came from another country, who is not from here. The guardian is someone who really looks at you as a person who needs help, who needs to be protected" A separated child from Slovenia.
Implementing the Core Standards for guardians in practice, feeding into policy and legislation
From December 2012 until December 2014 nine project partners work on the implementation of the Core Standards for guardians of separated children. The objectives of the project are:
1. Raising awareness of the Core Standards, tailor them to the situation in every EU country participating in the project and empower guardians;
2. The national implementation of the Core Standards in practice and advocate for provisions in national legislation;
3. The development of European Strategic guidelines for harmonisation of appropriate guardianship inspired by the Core Standards;
4. Enlarging the scope of the Core Standards for guardians of separated children in Europe in nine other EU countries.
In nine country assessments the project partners analyse the status quo in their respective countries. Based on this analysis, they give recommendations for implementations. The assessments also contain promising practices, which are used to create a toolkit for guardians and an advocacy toolkit.
Background: Development of the Core Standards for guardians
In December 2009 the first 'Closing a protection gap for separated children in Europe' project started, financed by the EU Daphne III Programme, as a response to the differences in the level of protection separated children receive in European countries. The project aimed to harmonize the protection separated children receive from their guardian by focusing on the qualifications of the guardian. The assumption is that when all guardians have sufficient qualifications and mandates to work in the best interest of the child, the level of protection children receive in the different European countries will harmonize. The Core Standards and indicators are written from the perspective of separated children and guardians. The Core Standards aim to empower all guardians in Europe to work towards common goals and they should inspire State authorities to provide the guardian with the work environment and mandates needed to meet the Core Standards.