Thousands of lone migrant children are being let down by European countries, including the UK, a report has warned. It said asylum seekers and other refugees "face a culture of disbelief and suspicion" upon arrival in a EU nation, and authorities avoided taking responsibility to provide them with help and care.
A report released by the House of Lords EU Committee on Tuesday (26 July) details the plight of young refugee children who are said to be living in "squalid" and "deplorable" conditions. EU member states are "fundamentally failing to comply with international law to receive and protect children in a manner that recognises their specific vulnerability", the report says.
Those migrant children who are on their own are reported to be in the forefront of the crisis. More than a million refugees applied for asylum in the EU in 2015, of which nearly 90,000 were from lone minors — a huge increase from the previous year's 23,000 applicants. Britain alone has received 3,043 applications from unaccompanied minors, which again is an increase of 56% from figures for 2014.
Besides these figures, the report noted that not all lone migrant children make it to the asylum seeking process as they do not even reach EU shores. At least 137 children have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since January 2016, the report said.
The Europol estimates that more than 10,000 migrant children are thought to have disappeared in the past two years after arriving in Europe, with some falling prey to sexual exploitation, trafficking or other criminal activity.
The committee also criticised the "continuing reluctance of the UK government to show solidarity with its European partners in helping to relocate such children". Its evidence suggested a lack of "burden-sharing" between local authorities in Britain as one council was providing care for 412 lone children, while another council did not even have a single child, the committee said. It also highlighted and warned about the plight of such children in camps near the "wholly unsuitable" French Channel ports.
Baroness Prashar, chairwoman of the committee, said: "The current refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian challenge the EU has faced in its lifetime. At the sharp end of this crisis are unaccompanied migrant children, who are being failed across the board.
"It is particularly shocking that so many unaccompanied child migrants are falling out of the system altogether and going missing. How can member states, including the UK, tolerate a situation where there are more than 10,000 missing migrant children in the EU?"
She added: "We found that these children face suspicion on arrival. They are seen as 'somebody else's problem', and the conditions they live in were described to us as deplorable and squalid." Prashar called for all the organisations and agencies to work together to care for these children "in a decent and humane way".
In May, the UK government announced that unaccompanied refugee children from Greece, France or Italy would be allowed to enter the UK and be eligible for relocation with help from the local council.