Policies, practices and data on unaccompanied minors (EMN)

This Report presents the main findings of the 2014 EMN Study "Policies, practices and data on unaccompanied minors (UAMs)". The study aims to update the findings of the 2008-2009 EMN study on UAMs.

Background information

This study aims to provide up-to-date information and comparable data on the numbers and state of protection of unaccompanied minors (UAMs) arriving in Europe. The study has a special focus on the following issues identified as knowledge gaps:

  • Entry procedures and arrangements in place for UAMs who are not in the asylum process;
  • Unaccompanied minors who abscond or go missing from care facilities;
  • Arrangements to support the transition to adulthood for UAMs turning 18;
  • Policies and practices in place for (voluntary) return of unaccompanied minors.

EU synthesis

The Synthesis Report was prepared on the basis of National Contributions from 26 Member States and Norway. The EMN Inform summarises the findings from the synthesis report.

Figures and profile of UAMs in Europe

  • The number of UAMs seeking asylum in the EU has increased steadily since 2010, reaching a total of 24,075 minors in 2014 or 4% of the total number of asylum applicants in 2014.
  • The majority of UAMs applying for asylum in the EU are boys (86%) and the rest are girls (14%). Most of these minors are between 16 and 17 years old (65%).
  • The main countries of origin of these minors seeking asylum are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria and Somalia.
  • The number of UAMs who arrive in the EU and are not seeking asylum is unknown and only a few Member States can provide data on minors in this situation; A considerable number of these minors have arrived in Italy.

What motivates UAMs to come to the EU?

  • In many cases, the decision to migrate is not made by the minor, but instead by their family.
  • Most (Member) States report that asylum-seeking UAMs may fear persecution, harm and/ or human rights violations in their country of origin, whilst non-asylum seeking UAMs often arrive in the EU because they are seeking better education and job opportunities.
  • Where a UAM actually arrives, is trafficked or smuggled, or is intercepted, can be unintentional and wholly dependent on external factors.

What are the entry procedures for asylum and non-asylum seeking UAMs?

  • In line with the EU acquis, (Member) States have special (minimum) safeguards in place for UAMs applying for asylum in the EU.
  • Where no special policy applies, non-asylum seeking UAMs who do not fulfil the entry conditions may be ordered to return to their country of origin. However, the Study finds that in practice this measure is not often applied to non-asylum seeking UAMs.

What age assessment and guardianship arrangements are in place for UAMs?

  • Age assessment methods differ across (Member) States, and different approaches are also taken with regard to the outcome of the age assessment.
  • Most (Member) States also appoint a representative to non-asylum seeking UAMs applying the same guardianship system; however, this is not true in all cases, where different systems of guardianship apply based on the UAM’s migration status.

What reception facilities are available for UAMs ?

  • Most (Member) States accommodate asylum-seeking UAMs in separate reception facilities specifically for minors, foster families, or designated areas for minors within the mainstream reception facility.

How are durable solutions for UAMs arranged in Member States?

  • A ‘best interests’ determination procedure is in place to support the competent authority’s decision on a durable solution for the UAM in several (Member) States.
  • Durable solutions for UAMs based on an individual assessment are usually not defined in legislation in most (Member) States

What provisions are in place to prevent UAMs going missing or absconding from reception and/ or care?

  • Information on the number and profile of UAMs who go missing or abscond from reception and/ or care facilities is limited in (Member) States at present.
  • The first 24 hours upon arrival of a UAM are considered as critical for establishing a relationship of trust with the child and reducing chances of his/ her disappearance.

What happens to a UAM on turning 18 years of age?

  • Turning 18 has implications for UAMs’ access to rights such as accommodation, education and/ or employment and above all, on UAMs’ legality of residence.
  • There are few measures available in the (Member) States to support UAMs preparing for this transition.

Can UAMs be returned to their country of origin?

  • Most of the (Member) States’ legislation still provides for the possibility to detain and return UAMs, albeit special safeguards apply.

Overall conclusions, challenges and best practices

  • The study highlights some gaps and challenges that still need to be addressed to ensure that all UAMs benefit from the same level of protection
  • Gaps in the collaboration and cooperation that takes place between the various authorities dealing with UAMs in the (Member) States.
  • More systematic data collection using common definitions on UAMs could improve the availability of information to better inform any further development of safeguarding practices of (Member) States.

NCP Contributions

The Belgian contribution for the synthesis report and the national contributions from other Member States and Norway can be found on the website of DG home on the link above.


Publication Date:
Thu 04 Jun 2015
Main theme:
Publication type: