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ECRE, European Council of Refugees and Exiles
Unaccompanied children face diverse systems of legal assistance in various migration and asylum procedures, depending on the country they arrive in. This report examines all forms of legal assistance provided to unaccompanied children, from legal advice to legal representation in front of courts, as well as the different providers of legal assistance: from independent lawyers to NGO staff.
Previous research had found that forms of legal assistance is usually available but sometimes not during all stages of all procedures, not performed by someone familiar with child-related issues, and of generally low quality.
This report demonstrates that although the infrastructure for legal assistance may be in place at the national level, there are protection gaps in accessing it in practice: guardians are often not appointed till late in the procedures; children are not adequately informed of their rights. Good practices were also uncovered during the research. These were mostly performed by individuals or independent organizations who ensured children were properly informed of their rights and provided adequate services. The European Council of Refugees calls on States and legal practitioners to implement a range of suggested guiding principles.