Illustration by Galatia Iatraki/Solomon

Tens of thousands of children undertake dangerous journeys to Europe on their own every year, often in search of safety or to reunite with relatives.

This months-long investigation by Solomon and The New Humanitarian reveals that a shocking number have been wrongfully registered as adults, with dire consequences, and exposes the EU’s failure to protect the most vulnerable asylum seekers.

Journalists Iliana Papangeli, Ottavia Spaggiari and Isobel Thompson spent more than six months investigating the wrongful classification of asylum-seeking minors as adults in Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom, speaking to more than 30 lawyers, doctors, refugees and human rights advocates. They also analysed court documents and reports.

Their reporting showed that:

  • Unaccompanied children seeking asylum in all three countries have been repeatedly classified as adults, including by border security force officials who arbitrarily decided the age of asylum seekers;
  • The assessment systems — including medical tests — that are used to determine people’s ages are unreliable, poorly implemented and often violate the legal rights of children;
  • Systemic issues — including a lack of qualified interpreters — make it difficult for children who are wrongfully qualified as adults to appeal their cases;
  • And that in all three countries, children ended up in adult prisons for a long time after having been incorrectly registered as adults.

The stakes for children are high. Obtaining an accurate age assessment can make the difference between having access to shelter or being forced to live on the streets and between gaining legal status or being deported. 

Children wrongfully classified as adults are also denied rights, such as access to education, and face bureaucratic barriers to reuniting with family members in other European countries.

See the stories below.

Published stories

web: KontraBit