Child refugee numbers soaring in Europe
Numbers of child refugees seeking asylum in Europe are soaring, according to new figures.
The number of unaccompanied children seeking safety in the European Union in 2021 jumped by 72 per cent as the number of refugees arriving from Ukraine and Afghanistan rose sharply, according to the EU’s statistics bureau Eurostat.
But overall, the number of asylum seekers who were granted protection in the European Union fell 5 per cent last year, Eurostat said.
The agency said 23,255 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum last year, up from 13,550 in 2020.
Most of those who came from Afghanistan, where the Taliban seized power from the former US-backed government last August, were male and aged 16 or 17.
The war-torn country’s economy collapsed last year and thousands fled after US and other foreign forces withdrew.
EU states granted asylum in 267,360 cases last year, of which half of the applicants were deemed to be refugees and the remainder given subsidiary and humanitarian protection status.
Syrian citizens accounted for over a quarter of successful asylum cases last year, followed by Afghans and Venezuelans. Germany, France, and Italy were their main destinations.
Based on available data, EU countries granted asylum to 5,070 unaccompanied minors, 34 per cent of whom received refugee status.Meanwhile, more than five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February; overwhelmingly, most are women and children.
And the UN refugee agency UNHCR says it expects more than eight million people to flee Ukraine this year, more than double the agency’s earlier estimate as the conflict drives Europe’s worst refugee crisis since WWII.
Women and children make up the vast majority of those fleeing the country, UNHCR said, making up around nine in every ten people.
Most have gone to Poland (2.9 million), according to UN data, though many have also fled to other nearby countries including Romania (780,000), Hungary (500,000), Moldova (440,000) and Slovakia (360,000).
Another 13 million people are estimated to be stranded in affected areas inside Ukraine or unable to leave, UNHCR said.