© Kostas Tsironis / Reuters
Nearly 96,000 unaccompanied children traveled to the European Union in 2015 to apply for asylum, an EU refugee aid agency said. This is almost four times the number applying in 2014.
In 2015, “a total of 95 985 unaccompanied minors … applied for international protection in the EU,” the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said in its annual report, adding that unaccompanied children accounted for 7 percent of the total number of asylum seekers that were registered in the European Union over that period.
More than half of all such children were Afghan nationals, followed by Syrians and Eritreans, the report said. It also stressed that 70 percent of all asylum applications submitted by unaccompanied minors in 2015 were lodged in just four EU countries: Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Austria.
In May, the EU's statistical body, Eurostat, published its own press release on the issue, in which it placed the number of unaccompanied minors who had been among the asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2015 at around 90,000.
“While their number always stood between 11,000 and 13,000 in the EU over the period 2008-2013, it almost doubled in 2014 to reach slightly more than 23 000 persons, then nearly quadrupled in 2015,” the Eurostat document said.
It also stressed that most of the asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors were males (91 percent) and 57 percent were actually aged between 16 and 17, while those aged 14 to 15 accounted for 29 percent and those aged less than 14 for 13 percent.
The Eurostat statistics also confirm that about 51 percent of all unaccompanied minors that sought asylum in the EU were Afghans. It also stressed that 40 percent of all asylum applicants considered to be minors lodged their applications in Sweden.
In mid-June, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) also published a report on the matter, noting that nine out of 10 child refugees arriving in Europe through Italy in 2016 had been unaccompanied. The organization also told RT that minors go through “various forms of abuse and exploitation” on their perilous way to Europe.
More than 1.4 million people, mostly Syrians and Afghans, sought international protection in the EU in 2015, according to EU statistics. The massive inflow of refugees and migrants provoked the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Most came from Syria, where a civil war has claimed the lives of 250,000 people and displaced 12 million others since 2011, UN figures show. The asylum seekers also come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Mali and other countries.