Darboe and Camara v Italy (Appl.no.5797/17) - Third Party Intervention: The AIRE Centre, Dutch Council for Refugees and ECRE

A summary of the intervener's argumentation is as follows:

I. Children’s inherent vulnerability has led international human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) and this Court’s jurisprudence, to accord special status to the child. Under Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘CRC’) the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. Article 53 of the ECHR stipulates that the Convention rights must be construed in accordance with other international human rights obligations of State Parties, including the CRC.

II. It is paramount that age assessment procedures are fair and effective so as to prevent unaccompanied children from being treated as adults, to guarantee that their rights are protected throughout the asylum procedure and to ensure adequate reception conditions suitable for their specific needs. Unaccompanied non-national children wrongly identified as adults risk being subject to treatment contrary to their special status and best interests, resulting in a potential violation of Articles 3 and 8 ECHR.

III. Age assessment should never be undertaken as a routine practice and may only be resorted to where there are serious doubts about the claim of minor age and only after the principle of the benefit of the doubt has been applied. Where the individual circumstances of a particular case require an age assessment, a holistic, safe and dignified procedure should be carried out by qualified experts with due respect to material and procedural safeguards under Articles 3 and 8 ECHR. Medical methods should be avoided due to their low evidential value, intrusiveness and a risk of a disproportionate interference in the child’s private life that may lead to a violation of Article 8 ECHR.

IV. State Parties should guarantee unaccompanied asylum seeking children material conditions and reception facilities which are adapted to their specific needs, in view of their age, condition of dependency and enhanced vulnerability. To do otherwise, results in a failure by States to give full effect to their obligations under Article 3 ECHR.

V. The interveners submit that, under Article 53 ECHR, as regards EU Member States, Articles 3 and 8 ECHR must be interpreted in a manner consistent with EU law obligations binding on States as a matter of national law. EU Member States are obliged to provide suitable reception conditions, adapted asylum procedures and understandable information to children in order for them to have effective access to their rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (‘CFR’), namely Articles 18 and 24.  

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