While all children must be protected, some of the youngest asylum-seekers face even greater risks. This is particularly the case for “unaccompanied and separated children” – minors who have fled alone or have become separated from parents and are not being cared for by an adult who by law or custom has responsibility to do so. it is essential that data are collected to identify these children, protect and assist them.
The United Nations defines unaccompanied children as “children, as defined in article 1 of the Convention, who have been separated from both parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.” The United Nations defines separated children, a closely related group, as “children, as defined in article 1 of the Convention, who have been separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary caregiver, but not necessarily from other relatives. These may, therefore, include children being accompanied by adult family members.”
An unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) is a person under 18 years old, or in the absence of documentary evidence establishing age appears to be under 18, with no relative or guardian in the UK who is applying for asylum in his or her own right.
Unfortunately, data on displaced unaccompanied and separated children are limited, both in terms of availability and the quality of data reported. Many countries with significant asylum claims do not report on unaccompanied and separated children among asylum applicants.
In 2018, provisional data indicated that 27,600 unaccompanied or separated children sought asylum on an individual basis in at least 60 countries that report on this figure. while it is known that this is an underestimate, the trend indicates a decline in the number of unaccompanied or separated children applying for asylum, which reflects the overall trends in declining asylum claims since 2015. Most of these claims were from children aged 15 to 17 (18,500) but a substantial minority were from younger children aged under 15 (6,000).
As in previous years, Germany received the most asylum claims from unaccompanied and separated children with 4,100 – substantially lower than the 35,900 in 2016 and 9,100 in 2017. Although the number of asylum-seekers has declined overall, the decrease in applications by unaccompanied and separated children was nonetheless disproportionately high.
As in previous years, children from Afghanistan submitted the most such claims in Germany (700) but this was just 5 per cent of the 15,000 claims submitted by unaccompanied and separated Afghan children in 2016. The next most common nationalities were Somalia (600), Guinea (500), Eritrea (500), Syria (400) and Iraq (300).
Other countries that received significant numbers of asylum applications from unaccompanied and separated children included the United Kingdom (2,900), Greece (2,600), Sweden (1,700), Egypt (1,700), Turkey (1,700), Libya (1,500), Tanzania (1,400), the Netherlands (1,200) and Morocco (1,200).
As in previous years, the most common country of origin for unaccompanied and separated child asylum applicant was Afghanistan with 4,800 claims – just over half the 8,800 submitted in 2017 and substantially below the 26,700 in 2016. Eritrea continued to be the second most common country of origin with 3,500 claims.
SOURCES: UNHCR, IOM
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikmedia iCommons / Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]