Unaccompanied Refugee Youth -- Europe

There are a multitude of reasons young people from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East flee to Europe. Some flee persecution, others' homes were destroyed in war, and others are desperate to live somewhere that they can earn a living and support their family. They arrive as asylum-seekers and hope for the chance to receive refugee status and rebuild their lives. Many are under the age of 18 and, among these are youth that travel without family for months or even years.

In fact, since 2015, more than 170,000 unaccompanied and separated children and youth have applied for asylum in Europe(1). Many travel across the continent in attempts to reach the U.K., Germany and Nordic countries. Some are held in the country in which they arrived while others became stuck in transit due to border closings. For those who make it to their desired destination country, they often await years for decisions on their asylum claim.

In many cases, these youth have been without family for months or even years, are living in squalid conditions, are preyed upon by traffickers, smugglers and radical extremists, and exist in a state of limbo – not knowing how or when they will be welcomed into a caring, safe community or reunited with family.

This is an opportunity – and, more so, a call – for the Church to show the love that Christ shows us through both actions and words.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14)

(1) https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_A_child_is_a_child_May_2017_EN.pdf, 12