Afghan parents are sending their children to Europe unaccompanied in the hope they will be granted asylum and seek reunification with the rest of their families, a report by the European Union’s (EU) asylum office has said.
Last year, nearly 96,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU, four times as many as the previous year, with the vast majority coming from Afghanistan.
Ward Lutin of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) told Euractiv that the numbers coming from Afghanistan were “huge”.
“There is some social research showing that in Afghanistan, this is seen as a grouping mechanism. Families send out their children, strategically, hoping that they will manage to get a status in Europe, and then use them as anchor children and be reunited with them.”
European asylum authorities are seen as far more sympathetic to minors, and once those minors are granted asylum they can request for the rest of their family to be given asylum under reunification rules.
Mr Lutin added that research showed young Afghans see travelling to European countries such as Germany and Sweden as “something heroic”, and that it is considered “shameful” not to succeed in getting asylum.
European countries have seen a number of incidents where adult migrants have lied about being minors in order to take advantage of more lenient rules.
In one of the worst cases, a group of asylum seekers who claimed to be under 18 were evicted from student accommodation after one of them subjected a 13-year-old girl to a three-month rape ordeal.
The man who was arrested for the crime claimed to be 16 years old, but police believed him to be in his 20s.
The local mayor immediately cancelled the accommodation contract and evicted all the migrants after details of the case came to light.
“I’m not prepared to wait until there was another incident before doing anything. I believe it is a risk with this group of asylum seekers”, he said.