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Monday, July 28, 2014

Unaccompanied Minor Children Represent a Global Issue

There are more unaccompanied minor children arriving in the US than into any other country (reflecting partly the fact that we have more immigrants than any other country), but the US is not the only recipient of such migrants. The Migration Policy Institute has a nice overview of the situation and policy choices being debated and implemented in the US and the EU. In a separate email that went out today, they note the global scope of the issue. Since I don't see this piece online, I will quote from the email I received, which has numerous links to the sources of their information:
The U.S. immigration, humanitarian, and political systems currently are grappling with a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied minors, with more than 57,000 children encountered so far this fiscal year at the U.S.-Mexico border. This trend is not unique to the United States. Child migrants traveling without relatives are on the move across the globe, leaving their homes as a result of violent conflict, abuse, poverty, famine, and natural disasters.
The United States is not the only destination for Central American child migrants fleeing gang violence and poverty. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 5,500 unaccompanied children sought safety in Mexico in 2013, while Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize recorded a combined 435 percent increase in asylum claimants (adult and child) from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The phenomenon of unaccompanied minors is found in most major immigrant-receiving countries. The European Union registered 12,685 asylum applications from unaccompanied minors last year, with an additional 12,770 entries by unaccompanied minors not applying for asylum. The children come mainly from Afghanistan and Syria, across Africa, and as far away as Vietnam.

As of August 2013, the Australian Human Rights Commission recorded 358 unaccompanied minors in immigrant detention centers around the country, where concerns of poor treatment and conditions have been raised. Due to a policy of interdiction, fewer boats of refugees have attempted to reach Australia, leaving many stranded in Indonesia. Since 2012, the number of children arriving in Indonesia has increased 11 percent, to 2,478 minors. Many of the unaccompanied children are ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan, fleeing persecution by the Taliban.
The occurrence of unaccompanied children seeking refuge is not limited to industrialized nations, but also found in regions of conflict. The Syrian civil war has produced more than 1 million child refugees, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and beyond. Yemen is host to 2,700 unaccompanied children, mainly from Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Violent conflicts throughout Africa have forced children to flee, seeking safety in refugee camps. The Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia alone shelters at least 1,500 Eritrean unaccompanied minors.
For the United States the treatment and safety of the children arriving at the border has become a high priority, with Congress this week debating the appropriate response. For a primer on the child migration crisis, from its roots in Central America to U.S. policy, check out the Source's recent Policy Beat, and other MPI resources on unaccompanied minors, which can be found here.

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