Coventry Law Centre was granted funding by the Strategic Legal Fund to research the European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM). Our aim was to look into how ERPUM was going to work, how we could challenge it and, if necessary, litigate against removal in specific cases.
Prospects of project ERPUM ever getting off the ground, thankfully, appear to becoming more remote. Whilst European governments may be happy to press ahead their counterparts in the receiving countries appear to have greater insight into the difficulties and dangers faced by returning migrants and especially children.
So, whilst our initial aim was to litigate against the removal of children to Afghanistan and Iraq, our objectives have changed. Through our ongoing work we aim to monitor the progress of project ERPUM, collate research, statutory instruments and case law that would be useful in future litigation and establish a network of practitioners that share a common interest in the developments of project ERPUM.
At Coventry Law Centre we more than understand the pressures on Legal Aid lawyers wanting to do the best for their clients with minimal resources and in an increasing environment of hostility towards the work we do. For that reason we also want the website to be a useful tool in the litigation you already undertake; defending the rights of young migrants. Therefore, you should also be able to utilise the resources on the website when conducting the cases you have now.
The European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM) is a European Union project to discover new methods for the return of unaccompanied asylum seeking minors who have received a final rejection of their asylum application.
ERPUM focuses on Afghanistan and Iraq, though recently a third so far unnamed country has been introduced into the future plans. The project background is based on the EU Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors from 2010.
At present, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are participating in the scheme, with the Swedish Migration Board managing the project.
The project has entered the second term of its existence. ERPUM I was active between January 2011 and December 2012, funded by the European Refugee Fund at € 1 million per year. An additional phase, ERPUM II, is funded by the European Return Fund and has a duration period from 1 January 2013 to 30 June 2014. So far no child has been returned.
The ERPUM scheme has raised a number of legal, political and moral concerns related to the return of children to questionable, possibly dangerous environments. Underlying all these problems is the compatibility of ERPUM with Children’s Rights, Human Rights and jurisdiction in Europe relating to unaccompanied minors threatened with removal.
Concrete information about ERPUM is difficult to obtain and the exact steps, negotiations and progress the project has made are equally unclear. In response, we have initiated ERPUM Watch which aims to establish an international exchange forum for legal advisers and practitioners, academics and other concerned parties across the involved countries to enable an exchange of information and data, so that a close, up-to-date monitoring of ERPUM and its critical developments can be ensured.