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Number of refugee children arriving alone quadruples

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Number of refugee children arriving alone quadruples
Young Abdul from Afghanistan sits in a home for unaccompanied refugee minors in Saxony. Photo: DPA.
10:33 CEST+02:00
More child and teen refugees traveled to Germany on their own last year than ever before.

About 42,300 children and adolescents who had travelled without any parents to Germany were taken into youth protective custody last year - roughly four times the number as in 2014, according to figures from federal statistics office Destatis on Tuesday.

But there seems to be a decrease so far for this year, the German Family Ministry reported.

“Therefore it will be easier for us to be able to provide for and take care of refugee children and teens,” said Family Ministry secretary Ralf Kleindiek.

Of the children travelling by themselves, 91 percent were boys , while about 3,600 were girls.

So far 53 percent of the children and teens who travelled alone in 2015 have applied for asylum status, according to Destatis, using data from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Minors cannot be deported and thus if they do not apply for asylum, they are legally "tolerated".

Youth protection services also take in refugee children in other situations, such as if their parents are unable to care for them, or if they're struggling in school. In total, these protective services received about 77,600 young refugees in 2015, which was 62 percent more than the previous year.

The number of children who were taken in due to having overwhelmed parents, problems in school or drug problems dropped by three percent compared to 2014.

Destatis has been collecting such statistics since 1995, and within the past 20 years, 2015 was the “absolute high point,” according to Dorothee von Wahl from Destatis. In comparison, just 2,800 refugee youths travelling by themselves were taken into protective custody in 2010.

According to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees, the actual number of children travelling alone may be lower as some could be registered more than once. On the other hand, there could also be children who have avoided being counted by authorities.

Nevertheless, a Family Ministry spokesperson said that the high number of children and adolescents who arrived alone in 2015 has “created challenges that are almost too much to handle for some communities”. But luckily certain changes to the law have made it easier to redistribute the children nationwide, the spokesperson said.

There is also the danger that child refugees are more vulnerable to going missing: Media reports have revealed that between 5,000 and 6,000 refugee children were reported as missing last year.

One of the biggest concerns about missing refugee children is that they may fall victim to organized crime, especially human trafficking. Another possibility is that some children are ultimately taken in by relatives and not reported as found.

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