Condemnation of the Trump administration’s decision to detain and separate minors from their families at the Mexican border has been almost unanimous. But do European governments treat minors migrants any better? This is the question that launched Investigate Europe’s investigation in 2019, and which led us to those parts of Europe most under pressure from the arrival of migrants. From the remote island of Mayotte in the Comoros Archipelago, to cosmopolitan airports in Berlin, Lisbon or London – everywhere we found examples of children being detained, against international rules, whose only crime is that they are trying to enter European territory without permission.
When Greece asked other countries to divide 2,500 of the country’s then 4,500 single minors between them six months ago, most rejected the request. Investigate Europe asked the governments why. Their answers reveal that a common and humane European asylum policy has become a fiction. The European consensus is to help Greece keep refugees out. Now a feeble and reluctant “coalition of willing” is emerging. It is likely too little, too late to avert more chaos in the country tasked with containing migration.
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.