Amid larger migrant plight, unaccompanied children and teens face unique dangers

The demolition of the Calais “Jungle,” a vast migrant camp that had grown up around the entrance to the tunnel connecting France and the United Kingdom, left scores of children adrift amid smoldering ruins in October. Like the adult migrants around them, these unaccompanied minors, some as young as 8, had made it as far as Calais, hoping to find sanctuary in Great Britain. The plight of these children and teens highlights the growing problem of unaccompanied child migrants throughout Europe.

Nearly 90,000 children unaccompanied by parents or other guardians sought asylum in Europe in 2015—four times the number in 2014. Thirteen percent of them were under the age of 14. Most are boys between the ages of 16 and 17; many represent the one family member sent off, after pooling meager family resources, to escape conflict zones to a better life. That hope can be misplaced. In January, the E.U. police intelligence agency Europol estimated that at least 10,000 child refugees have gone missing since arriving in Europe. It is feared many have become victims of exploitation by human traffickers and criminal gangs, who force them into prostitution, child labor and the drug trade.

Advertisement

These children and teens have been making their way through Europe in flight from war and ISIS terror in the Middle East or escaping other conflicts and extreme poverty in Africa. The United States experiences much the same desperate phenomenon at its southern border as unaccompanied children flee north to escape poverty and gang- and narco-violence. Perhaps putting heads together at the United Nations on this shared dilemma can lead to an effective and humane global response to this especially heartbreaking migration challenge.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tom Fields
1 year 3 months ago
God help these children! I have 5 children and 9 grandchildren. I can not imagine any of them wandering alone through a foreign country. We need to establish "safe zone"-- camps where families can be together--where records can be kept---where medical treatment is available. The hope would be repatriation---at some point. Obama has failed to work with other Nations--to move towards these solutions. NATO could provide the core framework. Pray.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Father Ireneusz Ekiert, administrator of Mary Help of Christians Church in Parkland, Fla., leads parishioners during an outdoor Stations of the Cross service on Feb. 16 dedicated to the victims and survivors of the deadly mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)
In the midst of the unimaginable, Father Ekiert is telling his parishioners to show and live love daily—not just in a time of grief and horror.
Kate SteinFebruary 20, 2018
When I played hockey, other players of color were few and far between.
Antonio De Loera-BrustFebruary 20, 2018
Five years later, looking back on a momentous day in the life of the church
James Martin, SJFebruary 18, 2018