Far from home, young and vulnerable

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Asylum seekers are not always over 18. These teenagers, who have come to Europe alone, are particularly vulnerable. They benefit from special care. Find out more.

While it may have received a little more media coverage in recent months with the ongoing war in Ukraine, the migration crisis from other countries has not slowed down since 2016, and the influx continues to be regular. These are young people, or unaccompanied minors (UAMs), whom the Office National à l'Enfance (ONE) and the Office National de l'Accueil (ONA) take into care in hostels. They all go to the Lily Unden Hostel in Luxembourg for their first reception. The unaccompanied minors are then allocated to smaller hostels in Strassen, Bertrange and Differdange, where young Luxembourgers and foreigners meet.

Two of these hostels were set up as a matter of urgency in 2022 following a large influx of UAMs to Luxembourg. These young people come from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea in particular. The scheme is entirely funded by ONE. It is the Red Cross that is operating these homes and that opened the doors for us to gain a better understanding of this very special form of care. The younger the children, the more specific the help provided … and the longer it takes: "Young people need a lot more support, of course, and they will stay much longer in the facilities because they are expected to stay until they are 18, unless a return to the family is planned. This is not the case with unaccompanied refugee minors, " explains Mireille Neuen, Director of Child and Family Support at the Red Cross. What's important for her is that the emphasis is placed on the fact that these young people are UAMs, and not on their refugee status.

According to the latest Eurostat figures, in 2020, 13,600 asylum seekers in the EU Member States were considered to be unaccompanied minors, down 4 per cent on 2019 (14,100). This downward trend continues after the peak in 2015 (92,000). Unaccompanied minors accounted for 10 per cent of all asylum seekers under the age of 18 in the EU in 2020. The majority of them (88 per cent) were men. 67 per cent were aged between 16 and 17 (9,100 people), while those aged between 14 and 15 represented 22 per cent (3,000 people) and those under 14 years 11 per cent (1,500 people). Afghan nationals (5,500 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, or 41 per cent of the EU total) continue to be the main nationality of UAMs in the EU, as they have been since 2008. Syrian nationals (2,300 or 17 per cent of the EU total) were the second main nationality for the second year running, followed by Pakistanis (1,100 or 8 per cent of the EU total), as in 2019.

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