Project Description

Credit: IE/Alexia Barakou


Minor Migrants: Europe’s Prisons

January 15th, 2020

Credits: Art Direction & Motion Graphics Design: Alexia Barakou Sound design: Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos & Alexis Koukias-Pantelis Narration: Pavlos Zafiropoulos


European society has been swift to condemn President Trump’s appalling imprisonment of minor migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Latin America. But with children making up a third of the refugees and migrants coming to Europe, is Europe’s record really any better?

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.

Listen: Der Tagesspiegel article

Investigate Europe journalist Nico Schmidt reads his German language article from Der Tagesspiegel on the detention of Minor Migrants.

“Unweit der Landebahn des Flughafens Schönefeld endet die Bundesrepublik. Ein Gitterzaun umgibt das Haus, das zwar in Brandenburg steht, sich aber rechtlich außerhalb Deutschlands befindet. Zwei Sicherheitskräfte bewachen die Räume, in denen dicht an dicht einfache Betten stehen. Wenn Familien ohne gültige Papiere die Ankunftshalle erreichen und um Asyl bitten, bringen die Grenzer sie hierher und halten sie so lange fest, bis die Behörden über ihren Antrag entscheiden…”

“The Federal Republic ends not far from the runway at Schönefeld Airport. A fence surrounds the house, which is located in Brandenburg, but is legally outside of Germany. Two security guards guard the rooms, in which there are simple beds. When families without valid papers reach the arrival hall and ask for asylum, the border guards bring them here and hold them until the authorities decide on their application…”

Media Partners

“PPA tunnistab: Eesti oli varem pagulasperedega liiga karm”
“PPA admits: Estonia used to be too tough with refugee families”
“Co roku w Polsce od stu do dwustu dzieci trafia do zamkniętego ośrodka, choć nie popełnia żadnego przestępstwa”
“Every year in Poland, between one and two hundred children are put in closed centres, despite not committing a crime”
“Norge har internert 97 barn de siste to årene. Ingen ser de innelåste asylbarna.”
“The children that nobody sees. Norway has detained 97 children in the past two years. Nobody sees the locked-up minor migrants.”

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