Children of women staying in an anti-violence center | Photo: ANSA/Save the Children/Riccardo Venturi
Children of women staying in an anti-violence center | Photo: ANSA/Save the Children/Riccardo Venturi

In a new report, Save the Children says little has changed for more than 200,000 unaccompanied children who have sought asylum in Europe over the past five years. They "continue to drown on the EU's watch," the NGO said.

Five years after the harrowing death of refugee boy Alan Kurdi, a new report from global organization Save the Children highlights the plight and vulnerability of migrant and refugee children trying to seek asylum in Europe.

In the 35-page report published on Wednesday (September 2), Save the Children accuses the European Union of having failed to address the needs of migrant and refugee children.

According to the report titled "Protection beyond reach", an average of 10,000 children were stranded on the Greek Aegean islands since August 2019. Thousands were left to their own fate because Europe wasn't willing to take care of the children, the NGO said.

"Children continue to die on the EU's doorstep while European leaders look the other way," said Anita Bay Bundegaard, Director of Save the Children Europe.

According to the report, some 210,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Europe over the past five years. The actual number of children who stay in Europe, however, was presumably significantly higher.

Children and teenagers were living in constant fear of being put in jail or deported, with "many being forced into an existence in the shadows of Europe, at risk of exploitation and abuse," the NGO said further.

Last July, Save the Children had already urged the EU to reform its migration laws. A EU proposal on a long-stalled migration and asylum reform is expected at the end of September.

700 deaths at sea

The report was published on the five-year anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi, who drowned in the Aegean Sea with at least four other people, including his brother and mother, on September 2, 2015.

The photographs of the toddler's body lying face down in the sand reverberated around the world, prompting international responses and sparking a flurry of donations for asylum seekers. Alan Kurdi's death has also become a global symbol of the plight of refugees at sea.

From 2015 until 2019 -- over the past five years --, some 700 children, including babies, lost their lives trying to reach European shores via dangerous journeys by sea. That's according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In its report, Save the Children also criticized a "reduced access to protection" in Europe as children are often stuck in transit countries like Turkey and Libya due to the EU-Turkey deal and the EU's support of Libya's coast guard, which is tasked with intercepting migrants trying to reach European shores and return them to Libya.

The report also highlights the difficulty of family reunifications, the adverse effects uncertainty has on children's mental health and "new measures that make it easier to detain children," including the so-called German AnkER-Zentren ("anchor centers"), which allegedly "severely limit children's freedom of movement."

Improvements and recommendations

The report also noted a number of improvements in certain areas, including access to guardianship, which was strengthened "to some extent."

Furthermore, Save the Children made a number of recommendations, such as ending immigration detention of children, quicker family reunifications, access to a guardian within 24 hours and "more and better legal migration pathways for children".

With epd, KNA


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