“Family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Accidental separation is when someone loses their family unintentionally, and is usually a direct consequence of the family fleeing conflict. Deliberate separation is when there is a conscious decision to separate the family. This is usually due to extra stresses put upon the family in the aftermath of an emergency. These include a lack of food, shelter or access to education, or having to escape domestic violence or other forms of abuse.
When we find an unaccompanied child, their safety is of paramount importance. After talking to them to understand their situation we work with partners including national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to begin the process of tracing their family. It is vital that we do this quickly but also in a way that does not expose the child to any risks. In situations when there are large numbers of unaccompanied children, we prioritise the most vulnerable who are usually those under five years old.
Everyone has the right to be with their family, but for refugees it is particularly important. Not least because it can offer protection to each family member which is usually more effective than the efforts of outside help.
Zaragosa, 15 and 16 April 2010
Response to the European Commission Green Paper on the Right to Family Reunification of Third Country Nationals Living in the European Union (Directive 2003/86/EC), February 2012.