28 September 2012
Every year, thousands of unaccompanied children travel to Europe seeking a new life. The majority has fled from wars, conflicts or other difficult living conditions and some have lost family members along the way. Today, in a report on the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU, the European Commission calls for improved efforts at both national and European level to respond to this complex transnational challenge.
The arrival of unaccompanied children from third countries is not a temporary phenomenon, but a long-term feature of migratory flows to the EU. In 2011, there were 12,225 asylum applications by unaccompanied minors across the EU27, a number comparable to previous years and unlikely to change in the coming ones. A much greater overall number of unaccompanied children are entering Europe via irregular migration channels, as estimates provided by some member States suggest. Italy provided data, which indicated that there were 5959 unaccompanied minors on Italian territory on 31 December 2011; France provided an estimate of 6 000 in its territory; in Spain, the aggregated figure of unaccompanied minors for the period 2008-2011 was over 5 500; Belgium estimates the number at 4 000.
"The minors arriving alone to our borders are among the most exposed and vulnerable in our societies. Although it is encouraging that EU policies have helped to improve the conditions and protection of the children, more challenges lie ahead. We need to improve our procedures to ensure that these children receive a dignified welcome at Europe's borders. This includes better cooperation and information sharing between EU countries", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Today's report shows that much remains to be done. Additional efforts in data gathering are needed, as are concrete solutions when it comes to family tracing and age assessment.
To increase the protection of unaccompanied minors entering the EU and based on the respect for the rights of the child, the Commission adopted in 2010 an Action Plan that helped bringing into focus the issue of unaccompanied minors who arrive in Europe.
Op-ed in European newspapers: "Stand up for the unaccompanied children"