The EU Commission expressed concerns about the rising number of unaccompanied children and teenagers migrating to the EU countries.

“Children in migration are particularly vulnerable because of their age, their distance from home, and often their separation from parents or carers and require specific and appropriate protection,” the commission’s spokeswoman Ciara Bottomley told Anadolu Agency.

The total number of asylum applications made to the EU in September exceeded the pre-coronavirus levels, including 2,800 unaccompanied children, according to the latest data of the EU’s statistical institute Eurostat.

The statistics in question include children who entered the EU territory without an accompanying adult and those who were abandoned after entering, according to Eurostat.

In a 2017 communication on the protection of children in migration, the commission had signaled the need for the member states to take action to respond to the needs of unaccompanied children, she added.

The situation can be improved by “improving data collection and cross-border collaboration with the relevant authorities, ensuring that a person responsible for child protection is present at an early stage and that procedures and protocols to systematically report and respond to all instances of unaccompanied children going missing are put in place,” she explained.

Referring to the commission’s new immigration and asylum package, she said the new rules “will ensure that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration in decision-making.”

“During the screening procedure, individual assessments will consider children’s specific needs, with tailored actions that reflect children’s particular needs at every stage,” she said, adding particular attention is also paid to family reunification.

According to Eurostat’s latest data, unaccompanied minors come mostly from Afghanistan, Somalia, Guinea, Syria, Albania, Cameroon, Eritrea and Gambia.

Austria received 660 asylum applications, Belgium 390, Netherlands 300, Bulgaria 245 and Germany 230. Greece, Italy, Spain, Romania followed them with over 100 applications.

– Number of homeless minors on rise

Brussels, the capital of the second country where the highest number of applications are received on behalf of these children, has observed an increase in the number of homeless unaccompanied minors in recent months.

The crisis was caused by the lack of shelter for refugees.

Koen Van den Broeck of the Brussels-based Infirmieres de Rue (Street Nurses) Association told Anadolu Agency that volunteer nurses, who wander through the streets of Brussels at night to help the homeless, have observed a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied child migrants.

Broeck said the problem caused by a massive influx of migrants from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, cannot be resolved because of flaws in the state’s social policies. The state should provide them accommodation in the first place, he said.

Michael Genet of the Doctors of the World Association in Belgium said that it will take time for the projects currently carried out by non-governmental organizations to solve the problem of unaccompanied children.

To tackle the issue, Genet noted that solutions at the state and EU levels are required.

* Writing by Beyza Binnur Donmez

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