Saturday

19th Jan 2019

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us