European countries are not allowed to imprison children under the age of 13. This age limit, however, does not apply to children seeking asylum. As a result, children are being detained in guarded centres – often behind barbed wire and prison bars – in almost all European countries.
In Poland, for example, each year up to two hundred children who have not committed a crime are sent to closed detention centres. In Greece, a teenager was recently murdered in the ‘children’s safe zone’ of a refugee camp, and a nine-month old baby died of dehydration.
Investigate Europe spent three months looking into the detention of child migrants across Europe, gaining access to camps and talking to refugees, state officials, psychologists and paediatricians.
Our Investigate Europe reporters found children living in dangerous conditions in overcrowded camps, children denied access to proper schooling and lacking vital medical care, children prone to depression and suicidal thoughts, and children facing violence and abuse including sexual abuse.
We found that these human rights abuses are not so much the fault of corruption and incompetence, but the desired effect of policies drawn up in the heart of Europe with the aim of creating a severe deterrent.
Scroll down to read the full story in our Media Partner publications below.
Moria’s logbook of horrors
A personnel logbook, found in the ashes of the Moria refugee camp, confirms the challenging conditions faced by the unaccompanied minor’s living in the camp’s Safe Zone. Reporter Stavros Malichudis found the book in the Greek island of Lesbos, home to Europe’s most notorious refugee camp, which burnt to the ground in September 2020. The book — maintained by careworkers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — spans six months, and details the tribulations of Moria. Read the full story here and listen to the podcast about it.
Europe’s new refugee regime: Pushing external borders to the limit
The task of receiving refugees has largely been left to Greece. While asylum centres in northern Europe shut down, 40,000 children and adults remain crammed into refugee camps on Greek Islands in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Without a collective approach this winter, there are warnings that the entire system may collapse.
BORDERLANDS – Minor migrants imprisoned in Europe
From the remote island of Mayotte in the Comoros Archipelago, a French department next to Madagascar; the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos; Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish territory cities in Morocco; and cosmopolitan airports in Berlin, Lisbon or London – our investigation found children being detained, against international rules, whose only crime is that they are trying to enter European territory without permission
Missing in France: Vietnamese children trafficked into Europe
In recent years, many Vietnamese minors have gone missing after arriving at the Ile-de-France airport. Unaccompanied by family members, these children are supposed to be cared for by child welfare services. But under the nose of these authorities, they are taken by traffickers who are awaiting their arrival.