Update: 23.10.2013

Unaccompanied children disappear in Switzerland

Thousands of children, coming to Europe without their parents, disappear every year from lodging and reception centers without a search procedure being set in motion. In Switzerland too, experts consider that the majority of unaccompanied children disappear shortly after their arrival "without leaving any trace". For these young persons, no official search will be ordered. Swiss authorities rather consider them first as foreigners than as children, and treat them with repression measures rather than special protection. This is revealed by a study presented in January 2010 by Terre des hommes - Child Relief (Tdh), after twelve months of investigations carried out in four European countries among professionals in charge of these minors.

Claims by Terre des hommes - Child Relief

Protection of minors should prime over the limitation of migration, reminds Tdh. A non-accompanied minor should first be considered according to its rights as a child, and under the perspective of illegal immigration. Most of the minor asylum seekers are boys between 14 and 17 years old, thus falling under  the  U.N  Convention on the Rights of the Child. But many of them have survived extreme situation. They need therefore, according to professionals,  to be explained quickly upon arrival the benefits of staying in lodging and reception centers.

In his preface to the study, the Vice President of the United Nations’ Committee on Child Rights, Jean Zermatten, raises the triple vulnerability of those concerned: as children, foreigners and non-accompanied. He emphasized: "... they have a right to the same attention and benefits as all the other children in care (...). If thus a child, whatever his status, and for whatever reason, disappears from an institution, every usual procedure must be set in motion: the responsibility of the institution and that of the State is involved." The study also lists the particular risks to which separated children are exposed: lack of hygiene, psychological deterioration, drug trafficking, forced delinquency, labor exploitation, sexual exploitation ... sadly, there is plenty of evidence of the reality of these dangers.

Even more than numbered?

The numbers of non-accompanied minors give rise to uncertain statistics: in 2008, there were 631 in the area of asylum alone (not including those without papers) in Switzerland. In 1999, they were approximately 15'000. The destiny of many remains a mystery, even after the Tdh study.


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