Sunday

19th Feb 2017

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."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants storm Spanish enclave of Ceuta
  2. Spain's princess fined for tax fraud, husband sentenced
  3. EU to invest millions in energy infrastructure
  4. Dutch data watchdog forces online vote aides to up security
  5. EU allows Lithuania to ban Russian tv channel
  6. Finland announces increase in defence spending
  7. Ex-PM Blair says Brits should 'rise up' against Brexit
  8. Nato chief says facts to prevail over fake news

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty