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IOM Report on Unaccompanied Minors: Heart-Wrenching Case Studies

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a report in Greece, titled Addressing the Needs of Unaccompanied Minors”, based on interviews with 1,206 child migrants traveling alone in Greece. 508 of those interviewed said they would not want to return to their home countries because it was their intention to reach a northern European country, whereas only 282 wanted to return. The remainder initially wanted to express willingness to return, however later changed their minds and then decided to stay in Greece.
The 508 unaccompanied minors that did not want to return home insisted that they were intent on reaching their final destination no matter what services were made available to them in Greece. Most of them were boys between the ages of 15 and 17 years from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of these, 32 percent said that their final destination would be Germany, 23 percent the United Kingdom, 22 percent Sweden, 9 percent Norway, 5 percent France and 9 percent other European countries, such as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland.
“As per IOM Guidelines on the Protection of Unaccompanied Migrant Children, we had to confirm the identity of the legal guardians in the country of origin, have IOM or a partner NGO in the country of origin complete a family assessment, share the material with Greek authorities, get the child’s opinion, and along with the Prosecutor of Minors, explore whether it was in the best interests of the child to return home,” said IOM Greece Chief of Mission Daniel Esdras.
Most of the children were between the ages of 13 and 17 and the main countries of origin were Afghanistan (609), Egypt (216), Pakistan (176) and Bangladesh (54.) Only three were girls.
One of the 282 who wanted to return home, a 16 year-old from Pakistan said: “When I came to Greece and I realized the situation I started crying. I was crying all the time. Somebody told me that without a passport I couldn’t leave – that’s why I stayed here nine months. If I’d known that I could return home (voluntarily with IOM), I would have left earlier. I don’t want to stay here any longer.”
A 16 year-old from Afghanistan said: “I have decided to return home. I cannot survive here. I am a minor. Now I only want to return to my country.”
“The ideal picture I had of Greece is far from the reality. I want to return home and open a small business,” said a 17 year-old from Pakistan.
Those who decided to stay in Europe cited various reasons:
♦ “I am sure a better future is waiting for me in Sweden,” said a 16 year-old from Afghanistan.
♦ “I want to go somewhere safe. I don’t have any money. Maybe I can borrow a little money in order to move on to other European countries,” said a 16 year-old from Pakistan.
♦ A 17 year-old from Afghanistan said his brother had told him that there were job opportunities in the UK and he should therefore not go back home.
♦ “I know the language and I have relatives outside Paris that I can stay with,” said a 16 year-old from Algeria.
♦ “My parents sent me to Europe for a better future; I don’t want to disappoint them,” said a 17-year-old from Iraq.
♦ For some, just being provided with the right information was very important. A 15 year-old from Pakistan said: “I had no idea that I have the right to change my mind even on the day of departure. But, honestly I cannot bear living far away of my family anymore.”
The top countries of destination were selected based on the children’s ability to speak the language, the presence of family and/or friends, and existing migrant communities whom they thought could help them. During the project, IOM Greece worked closely with various organizations in the public sector, as well as with Greek NGOs, Embassies in Greece and IOM missions in the countries of origin.
The project, which was funded by the European Union, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden, ran from February 2013 to October 2014.
Click here for the full report.

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