An Unprecedented Number Of Unaccompanied Children Are Seeking Asylum In Europe

They're fleeing countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia.

One tragic consequence of war is that some children have to flee their homes -- often without their parents -- in search of peace and safety. Europe has experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of unaccompanied children arriving on its shores in the last two years, according to Pew Research Center data. 

The number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum jumped from 13,800 to 23,200 between 2013 and 2014, Pew said Tuesday. The think tank has been tracking these figures since 2008 through Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.

That number more than quadrupled last year, hitting a record 96,000.

"The 2015 total alone accounts for nearly half (48 percent) of unaccompanied minors that have entered Europe since 2008," Pew said.

Around 7 percent of all first-time European asylum applications in 2015 were from unaccompanied minors, the highest rate Pew has ever reported.

A sizable portion of these children -- 76,700, or 39 percent -- have come from Afghanistan, Pew said. Almost 20,000 have come from Syria, and thousands more have traveled from Somalia, Eritrea and Iraq.

Three-quarters of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Europe last year were males between the ages of 14 and 17. 

Their destination of choice: Sweden, which received almost 40 percent of the unaccompanied minors arriving in Europe last year. Sweden took in 163,000 total asylum seekers last year, the most per capita of any European country.

Although many governments are grappling with unmanageable numbers of asylum seekers, some are beginning to take action on unaccompanied minors.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron pledged last week to take in more unaccompanied children. Children who were registered in Greece, Italy or France before the EU struck a deal with Turkey to lessen the number of people coming in will be eligible for resettlement in Britain. 



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