Please download the files (Adobe PDF), then print and distribute. They are suitable for most office printers.
Print format: A4 landscape, actual size, double-sided (flip on short edge).
Then fold to A5.
This document has been published jointly in 2015 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Council of Europe. To understand European law, it's important to differentiate between two organisations:
- The European Union (EU) which has 28 member states and has its laws enforced by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The EU is the organisation that Britain will leave, depending on the outcome of a referendum on 23 June 2016.
- The Council of Europe (CoE) which has 47 member states including the 28 member states of the EU. (A country has to be a member of the CoE before it can become a member of the EU). The CoE does not make binding laws, but it enforces international agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) through the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Britain will continue to be a member of the CoE if it leaves the EU.
The two legal systems have much in common, and this handbook compares them alongside each other as they apply to childrens' rights. If Britain leaves the EU we will be able to discard, through our own Acts of Parliament, any legislation that comes from the EU, but we will still be subject to the ECHR and all other conventions we have agreed as part of our membership of the CoE. Thus, childrens' rights will be preserved, but so will certain other rights that we would prefer to discard. For example, it was the ECtHR that upheld the right to family life as being more important than Britain's security, when it obstructed the extradition of Abu Hamza to America. Examples like this indicate that, if Britain leaves the EU, some representations will have to be made to the CoE to disentangle ourselves from aspects of the ECHR that are not in our interests.
This document covers a wide variety of issues including the following:
Section 4.2. Right to personal identity
An adopted child has the right to access information concerning his or her origins. Biological parents may be granted a legal right not to disclose their identity, but this does not amount to an absolute veto.
This point is elaborated in 4.3 and I can't find anything that gives an adoptive parent the right to obstruct a child who wishes to find his or her origins. Only the biological parents have that right, and it's not an absolute right. In that case, how is it possible for adoptive parents to say to a child "We are your parents, you don't need to know about those other people, it's all over now"?
Education, healthcare, benefits, etc.
The document discusses childrens' rights to education, healthcare and social security, in each case emphasising the rights of migrant children. They have a right to be looked after by their parents, so the rights of migrant children are extended to whole families, but it doesn't give any advice on how an over-populated island called Britain is supposed to provide all these benefits for thousands of migrant families.
For the EU page offering this document in various formats click here, or to go straight to the English language PDF click here.
For an example of how human rights need to be applied to an adoption issue see:
Innocent couple fight for the return of their adopted child