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.

Stay Informed

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Where we are working

United Kingdom

In only its third year, Kids in Need of Defense UK has changed the lives of numerous children living in the United Kingdom who are eligible for British citizenship and protection, but had no way to access it.


KIND is partnering with European Lawyers in Lesvos to help unaccompanied children living in refugee camps challenge incorrect age determinations, which fundamentally impacts consideration of their asylum application and treats them as adults instead of children, depriving them of critically needed support and services. Pro bono lawyers coming for short durations to the Greek islands will work with local lawyers specialized in migration law to assist children in preparing legal challenges to these incorrect age determinations.


KIND is partnering with Alliance des Avocats pour les Droits de l’Homme to provide unaccompanied children who are at risk or are victims of trafficking with access to effective pro bono legal assistance.  Pro bono lawyers will be trained to assist children in cases where no state legal aid is available, which may include applications for international protection and family reunification, or legal action to uphold children’s rights in the juvenile justice system or in accessing their rights to appropriate housing, healthcare or education.


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


KIND is partnering with Child Circle, an expert nongovernmental organization in the field of migration and child rights, to educate and spread awareness of the problems faced by children on the move in Europe and of their need for protection.


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


How Pro Bono Lawyers Can Help Unaccompanied and Undocumented Children in Europe Gain Safety and Stability

KIND Participates in PILnet Panel on the rights of unaccompanied children in Europe. Lisa Frydman, KIND’s Vice President for International Programs, moderated the program.

Feature Resource

Briefing Paper and Key Recommendations Concerning Measures at EU Borders for Unaccompanied Children

Child Circle and Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND”) share a summary of core recommendations below on what measures should be in place at the EU borders as regards unaccompanied children.   This briefing paper identifies how, from the border onwards, States should fulfil the obligation to identify, protect and assist these children, and find durable […]

Read More
Feature Resource

European Initiative Fact Sheet

Through its new European Initiative, KIND will help unaccompanied children in Europe access free legal assistance, using its more than 10 years of success in providing pro bono representation to over 18,000 unaccompanied children in the U.S., Central America and the U.K.

Read More
Feature Resource

Joint Call to Action for EU Member States

We call on the governments of European Union (EU) Member States to immediately commit to the emergency relocation of unaccompanied children from the Greek islands to other European countries, giving precedence to existing family links and the best interests of the child. Action is all the more urgent in light of the escalating violence on Lesbos […]

Read More
Feature Media Hit

Legal group that aids child immigrants to set up Irish pilot

A US organisation set up by Microsoft and the actor and UN special envoy for refugees, Angelina Jolie, to help unaccompanied child immigrants, is to establish a pilot project in Ireland. The organisation, Kind (Kids in Need of Defense), works with law firms but also the legal departments of major corporations, by providing training to lawyers who volunteer to help […]

Read More

Get Involved Today

Find out how you can get involved and help ensure the protection and safety of children on the move.


Get Involved Now