Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Report: EU failing migrant children

  • 91 percent of all unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the EU last year were male (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

The EU and its member states are failing child refugees and other asylum seekers under 18, according to a British government report.

The UK House of Lords' EU committee in a report out on Tuesday (26 July) said unaccompanied migrant children "face a culture of disbelief and suspicion."

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Its 115-page document said authorities in the UK and elsewhere in the EU avoided taking responsibility to help care and protect the some 88,245 unaccompanied children that applied for asylum in EU states last year.

Poor reception conditions, prolonged uncertainties about their legal status, and overall bad treatment has instead helped smugglers and human traffickers exploit thousands of children.

The EU police agency Europol has estimated at least 10,000 unaccompanied minors and children seeking international protection have gone missing.

“It is particularly shocking that so many unaccompanied child migrants are falling out of the system altogether and going missing," said the chair of the committee in charge of the report, Usha Prashar, in a statement.

Aid agency Human Rights Watch last week said Greek authorities were regularly detaining children in "unsanitary police station cells". Some were as young as 14.

Missing Children Europe, an umbrella group for missing and sexually exploited children, has said that at least 50 percent of all unaccompanied minors went missing within 48 hours of being placed in a reception centre.

Many absconded in the hope of reaching their intended destination in Europe.

Afghan 'anchor children'

The vast majority of unaccompanied children were males just under the age of 18, over 50 percent of whom came from Afghanistan.

Ward Lutin, a migration expert at the EU asylum agency EASO, told reporters earlier this month that some families in Afghanistan sent out their children to Sweden or Germany in the hope of using family reunification rights to later join them in Europe.

Lutin called them "anchor children".

"Some studies indicate, specifically for Afghan youth, this is even seen a little bit as a right of passage, especially for the young boys, they see it as something heroic to be able to get a status," he said.

The House of Lord's report, for its part, said Afghan males aged 16 or 17 are most often eyed with suspicion by authorities.

The report noted that all children regardless of age or nationality should be treated with equal care.

"All those under 18 should be treated as children, first and foremost," it said.

Over 60 percent of Afghans applying for asylum in the EU tend to obtain some sort of protection status.

More kids applying for asylum

Figures provided by the EU statistical office Eurostat indicated a year on year increase in the number of migrant children applying for asylum.

In 2013, just under 13,000 applied. This increased to 23,000 in 2014 and then almost 90,000 last year.

But the UK report noted the figures are not entirely accurate.

It cited data that suggest thousands of children have also entered the EU without ever having had applied for asylum.

"All that we can say with certainty is that the number of unaccompanied migrant children in the EU runs to many tens of thousands and has grown significantly in recent years," said the UK report.

EU police issue warning on lost child refugees

EU police forces say that the 10,000 child refugees, who vanished off the grid after coming to Europe, are at risk of sexual and labour exploitation by criminal gangs.

Opinion

Strengthening child protection in the EU and globally

The way forward to ensure the protection of children globally is through a long list of small steps that governments must take to ensure no child in Europe or anywhere else suffers a life of abuse, exploitation or fear.

Children's rights at risk in EU hotspots

Lack of lawyers and other staff has caused logjams on asylum claims, which particularly hurt children, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency told MEPs.

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