6 May 2016

Eurostat released this week its updated figures on unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU in 2015. The number, a staggering 88,300, represents a four-fold increase compared to the previous year. Around half of the minors come from Afghanistan, with the second ranking nationality being Syrian. The majority of the asylum claims, 40% of the total, were registered in Sweden. Claims lodged in Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Austria account for three quarters of all asylum applications from unaccompanied minors in the EU.

A previous investigation by the Bureau of investigative Journalism uncovered slightly higher numbers, putting the total at 95,070. The treatment of minors differs widely among EU Member States, and some use controversial methods to determine their age, such as x-rays. This is problematic because it may mean that not all children are recognised as such and they may thus not receive the special protection they are entitled to. “Children first and foremost are children – they don’t know if they are refugees or migrants – they just know they are children and should be treated and welcomed as that,” stated Sarah Crowe, UNICEF’s spokeswoman for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.