21 March 2014

UNHCR and the Council of Europe have published a study on European states’ practice to address the challenges unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking and refugee children face when they turn 18. The report focusses on examples of practice from Austria, France, Hungary and Sweden.

Unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children are recognised as a vulnerable group with particular needs in the asylum procedure but then lose this special protection when they turn 18. The study recommends that states maintain after the age of majority certain key safeguards that unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children are entitled to so as not to undermine the ability to submit an asylum application and the examination of the claim.

The report stresses that adequate psychological support should be provided for the children, including specific counselling on the transition to adulthood and what this means for their status and situation. States need to give clear and transparent information about the consequences of reaching the age of majority, particularly regarding the rights and responsibilities they will have after that age, the report highlights.

If a family reunification procedure is not completed when an unaccompanied or separated child recognised in need of international protection turns 18, the procedure may be terminated. The report recommends that the reunification process should be pursued and completed even after reaching the age of majority.

A report adopted earlier this month by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also called for the establishment of a transition status for unaccompanied migrant children. During this transition period – between the ages of 18 and 25 – young migrants and asylum seekers would continue to be granted the most basic rights.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21 March 2014
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