Child refugee in Europe

An Integrated Approach

Legal Protection of Unaccompanied Children in Europe

Hundreds of thousands of children without their parents or guardians are on the move in or on the edge of Europe and in the United Kingdom. Most of these children have fled traumatic situations in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. They are alone, frightened, and unable to protect themselves. These children are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, violence, trafficking, smuggling, and exploitation. Many do not speak the local language of the countries in which they find themselves.

While many of these children are eligible to receive basic services, including housing, health care, education, and limited legal assistance, most either do not know their rights or are unable to exercise them. Without trusted and reliable sources of information about how to get help, these children become prey to smugglers and traffickers as they move through different countries.

KIND is adapting its pro bono model to expand legal assistance to children alone and on the move in Europe.

The legal needs of unaccompanied and separated children in Europe are myriad and change from country to country. They can range from challenging their conditions of detention, obtaining a form of international protection status, applying to be reunified with their family, or accessing services to which they are entitled. The sheer scale of these legal needs far outstrips current levels of legal assistance provided by state-sponsored legal aid programs, non-governmental organizations, or other sources.

KIND has adapted its U.S.-based pro bono model to expand legal assistance to children on the move in Europe. In partnership with leading local non-profit organizations, we have developed four pro bono projects that respond to the context and needs of unaccompanied children locally.

Where we are working

Map of Greece with orange background


In Greece, working with European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL), KIND is helping unaccompanied children living in unsuitable and unsafe conditions within refugee camps to apply to be reunified with family in other EU countries, challenge incorrect age determinations, and prepare for asylum interviews.

Map of France with orange background


In France, working with the Alliance des Avocats pour les Droits de l’Homme (AADH), KIND is helping unaccompanied children to access effective pro bono legal assistance.  Pro bono lawyers are trained and supported to assist children in matters including applications for international protection and family reunification or legal actions to uphold children’s rights in the juvenile justice system or to exercise their rights to residence, housing or healthcare.


In Ireland, working with the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), KIND is helping unaccompanied children who have been granted asylum to reunite with their families.  By training pro bono lawyers to guide children through the family reunification process, the project addresses a growing gap in legal services that is currently excluded from the scope of state legal aid.

map of Belgium with orange background


In Brussels KIND is partnering with Child Circle, a non-profit with expertise in children’s rights in migration, to contribute to advocacy discussions at EU level in order to shine a spotlight on the central role of legal advisers to advance protection for unaccompanied children and the need for further EU and national action to strengthen legal assistance.



Map of Italy with orange background


KIND has been working in Italy since early 2022 in partnership with the Italian Refugee Council and the pro bono legal community, providing children at the border with Slovenia and in Rome with legal assistance and essential information about their rights. KIND also works with the Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, Progetto Diritti, and the Association of Ukrainian Women in Italy to support children and families from Ukraine in Italy with a range of legal needs.

Map of Poland with orange background


With support from KIND, European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) expanded its work into Poland to provide legal assistance to children displaced from Ukraine. Since this work began in 2022, ELIL helped more than 1,200 individuals with assistance from six pro bono law firms.   

KIND is expanding its legal assistance to unaccompanied and separated children in Poland in 2023. 


Kids in Need of Defense UK

Helping children alone navigate the legal system in the United Kingdom

In collaboration with the Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit within the Islington Law Centre in London, JustRight Scotland, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, and Central England Law Centre, Kids in Need of Defense reaches children in London, the Midlands, and Scotland and has:

  • provided legal representation to 408 individuals
  • achieved 198 individual grants of citizenship or ability to remain
  • achieved 99% success in all cases where we have had a decision
  • trained more than 500 lawyers; more than 300 working on cases

Kids in Need of Defense UK is working with 13 law firms and Microsoft (see below). It is also pleased to be welcoming the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit as is its newest hub.

Partners in the United Kingdom

DLA Piper LLPAllen & Overy LLPSkadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Baker McKenzie LLPRopes and Gray LLPCovington & Burling LLP
Shearman and Sterling LLPReed Smith LLPAshurst LLP
Arnold and Porter LLPGowling WLGHogan Lovells LLP
Dechert LLPDentons LLP


Supporting the Psychosocial needs of Children and their Caregivers affected by War in Ukraine

KIND partnered with POMA Global, an organization focused on improving mental health in crisis-impacted communities to best understand how we could support children. PoMA completed a mental health needs assessment which found that children from Ukraine are suffering higher levels of anxiety and distress due to instability, and caregivers are struggling to support children because they are also experiencing traumatic stress and adversity due to war and displacement. The assessment found that there was a need for visual resources and tools that can offer a concrete set of strategies to caregivers who are themselves impacted by the war.

KIND therefore worked with PoMA Global to create these video resources. In this series of videos, we offer guidance and tools for caregivers and parents supporting children affected by the devasting war in Ukraine. These videos have been informed by Ukrainian psychologists and refugees and performed by Ukrainian actors.

In the three videos, we discuss the effects of trauma, helping caregivers to normalize their own experiences as well as explaining how it may affect their children’s behavior and emotions. We emphasize the importance of providing age-appropriate information helping children make sense of the world they live in, and we offer guidance and tools for both children and caregivers, helping to manage trauma and stress in a healthy way.

The videos discuss and highlight a person’s experience with traumatic stress and contains material of a highly sensitive nature including topics of war, displacement, suffering that may be triggering for some individuals. Please engage in self-care as you watch these videos.

Our goal is to support children and their caregivers, nurturing resilience and helping them to cope with the devasting and ongoing impacts of this war.

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Photo by Israel Fuguemann/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
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