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 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

Images: CNS/Composite: America
On Nov. 11, the Catholic Church lost a moral titan in the long struggle for racial equality and justice in the United States.
Shannen Dee WilliamsNovember 22, 2017
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar military commander-in-chief, speaks during the Union Peace Conference Aug. 31 in Naypyitaw (CNS photo/Hein Htet, EPA).
Gen. Min Aung Hlaing wields great political power in the country.
Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts in “Wonder” (CNS photo/Lionsgate). 
‘Wonder’ is a tween melodrama on a mission of mercy.
Simcha FisherNovember 22, 2017
The change was in “no way” a response to the C.C.H.D.’s persistent online critics, an archdiocesan official says.
Kevin ClarkeNovember 22, 2017