Refugee and migrant children in Europe and Central Asia by country
Some 33,000 children arrived in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain in 2017. Although this is an almost 70% decrease compared to 2016, in 2017 the proportion of children arriving unaccompanied or separated (UASC) has increased by 31%.
Some 20,000 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) arrived in Europe in 2017. Four in every five of them arrived in Italy. On average 86% of children arriving in Italy and Spain were UASC.
Over 11,200 children benefited from the EU relocation scheme in Greece and Italy by the end of 2017. Among them were 465 UASC. The number of relocated children increased two times in 2017 compared to the previous year - 3,474 versus 7,763.
Seven in every 10 children sought international protection in just four European countries: Germany (89,205), France (20,970), Greece (19,790) and Italy (16,309).
The demography of those arriving
Including accompanied, unaccompanied and separated children (January-December 2017)
Gender and age breakdown of accompanied and unaccompanied and separated children by country of arrival
Overall, the proportion of boys compared to girls among arrivals remains higher (on average four boys for every one girl).
Source: Hellenic Police, EKKA, Italian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Spanish Ministry of Interior
The majority of UASC who arrived to Italy, Greece and Bulgaria between January and December 2017 were boys between 15 and 17 years old (93% overall).
Source: Hellenic Police, EKKA, Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees
Reception on arrival in 2017*
- An estimated 21,000 children were present in Greece as of 31 December 2017. Of them, 53% are in urban areas (apartments, hotels, shelters for UASC, etc.); 29% are in accommodation sites and 1% are in safe zones for UASC. A further 12% are in Reception and Identification Centres.
- In total, 438 unaccompanied children were in Reception and Identification Centres (a two-fold increase since September 2017) and 54 were in protective custody/ detention (down from 106 in September 2017).
- 1,101 UASC were in shelters for UASC, with an additional 2,290 on the waiting list for shelter. Due to increased arrivals and limited places, the number of children on the waiting list for shelters increased by 88% during the second half of 2017.
- 18,303 UASC (93% boys and 7% girls) were present in shelters for UASC, run by State authorities and nonprofit entities at the end of 2017. This is only 500 more than in June, although during the same period of time 6,217 UASC arrived in Italy. 93% of all UASC in the shelters in December were between 15 and 17 years old.
- 348 children, including UASC, were accommodated in reception centres in Sofia and Southern Bulgaria in December 2017. This represents a two-fold decrease compared to June 2017 and a five-fold decrease compared to March 2017.
- All persons intercepted, including children and UASC, continued to be routinely detained until they claim asylum. Overall, in 2017, children spent an average 10 days in detention before being transferred to a reception centre. In January, May, July and November children spent over 20 days in detention on average.
- A total of 1,444 children were present in the country in December 2017, a 44% decrease compared to June 2017 and 51% decrease compared to March 2017.
- Children comprise 34% of the total number of refugees and migrants in the country, 94% of whom are accommodated in state reception and accommodation centres, including 279 UASC.
The reception systems still vary greatly in quality across and within countries, sometimes even posing protection risks. The large number of children who are not in shelters have either moved onwards or found themselves destitute on the streets or in informal accommodation.
* Figures reflect the situation as of end of December 2017
Sources: EKKA-Greece, UNHCR, UNICEF, Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Bulgaria State Agency for Refugees, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
** For Italy, the calculation is based on the estimated 18,303 UASC accommodated in the government shelters according to the Ministry of Labour and not the total number of UASC who arrived in between January and December 2017.
Asylum applications and decisions
Asylum applications lodged by children, including unaccompanied and separated children, between January and December 2017 – by country of asylum*
In 2017, European countries recorded 209,756 asylum claims by children, including 50,325 newly registered asylum claims during the last quarter of 2017. This represents a 47% drop from 2016, when 396,740 children claimed asylum in Europe.
Children make up more than 30% of all asylum seekers across Europe. Half of all child asylum seekers came from just three countries: Syrian Arab Republic (27%), Iraq (10%) and Afghanistan (10%). A total of 42% of all child asylum seekers are girls.
Germany is still the top destination for refugee and migrant children, registering close to half of all child asylum applications in 2017 (89,205 children of whom 9,084 UASC). France, Greece and Italy also recorded large numbers of child asylum seekers (20,970, 19,790 and 16,309 respectively).
Greece also had the highest number of first-time applicants relative to the population.
* The difference in numbers of arrivals and asylum applications can be explained by the long waiting times before people can claim asylum, backlogs in national asylum systems, as well as the fact that applications can be submitted by persons who have arrived previously or did not necessarily come through the Mediterranean Routes.
Decisions on child asylum applications
In 2017, a total of 303,360 decisions on asylum claims by children were issued. Of them, 63% were positive and 37% rejected. This represents a slight decrease of the proportion of positive decisions compared to 2016, when 69% of children saw they asylum claims accepted. Among children with positive decisions, 52% received refugee status (down from 53% in 2016), 37% were granted subsidiary protection and 11% received humanitarian status (up from 9% in 2016).
Throughout the year there was a clear trend of countries granting subsidiary protection, and especially humanitarian protection, rather than refugee status. This was visible across nationalities, including Iraqi, Syrian, Afghan and Stateless children, for whom refugee status decisions dropped by 30%, 17%, 9% and 6% respectively just between the third and last quarter of 2017.
Many children saw their asylum claims rejected, particularly Pakistanis (75%) but also Bangladeshis (48%), Cote d’Ivoirian (42%), Iraqis (34%), Afghans (33%) and Guineans (28%).
Inter-agency factsheet on refugee and migrant children
Access to education for refugee and migrant children in Greece
Refugee and migrant children in Greece - overview
Unaccompanied Children in Greece