Unaccompanied Minors (UAMS) in the European Union

Francesca Morgano
Approfondimento n. 4 per l'Osservatorio Nazionale sui Minori Stranieri non Accompagnati

In 2019, about 613,00 asylum-seekers entered the European Union’s 27 Member States, and of this number, about 13,000 were considered to be unaccompanied minors, which is about a 20% decrease compared to 2018 (16,800), following the decreasing trend after the peak in 2015 (92,000). According to this data, the highest number of unaccompanied minors was recorded in Greece with 3,300. In this same year, Germany recorded 2,700 children, Belgium had 1,200 and the Netherlands 1,000. The majority of unaccompanied minors come from Afghanistan, followed by Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Guinea, and Somalia.

This study examines fundamental soft law regulations and instruments implemented on an international level, in the context of the United Nations and Europe, focusing on the responsibility and accommodation of unaccompanied minors within the region. The piece briefly analyses the ways in which the different Member States apply the legislation, specifying the variances in their interpretations and implementation of the general principles that protect minors, more specifically the best interest of minors. Finally, it explains some critical issues resulting from the lack of adequate coordination by the Member States and the European institutions to uphold a system of efficient management concerning the phenomenon of unaccompanied migrant minors. Given the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied minors, it is essential to also recognize their peculiarity in relation to the greater risks and dangers they may incur. This research brings attention to the phenomenon in the EU context and highlights some necessary changes in EU policies needed to effectively protect and defend the rights of the unaccompanied minor going forward.

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