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Belgium: Nearly 7 in 10 ‘Unaccompanied Minor’ Migrants are Adults by Robert Semonsen

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Belgium: Nearly 7 in 10 ‘Unaccompanied Minor’ Migrants are Adults

Nearly 7 of 10 migrants who declared themselves to be ‘unaccompanied minors’ upon their arrival in Belgium last year were found to be adults, a government agency has revealed.

Of the nearly 3,400 self-declared ‘unaccompanied minors’ who arrived in Belgium in 2021, a figure that’s up well over 200% from 2019, 69% of those tested by the Guardianship Service, a government agency that operates under the direction of the justice ministry, were found to be adults, the public service broadcaster RTBF reports.

The figures were announced in a press release following the first Inter-Ministerial Conference on Migration and Integration, in which eight objectives were outlined regarding Belgium’s reception of underage asylum seekers. One of the eight objectives defined was to streamline and optimize the process of determining asylum seekers’ ages, something that so far, across Europe, has proved to be an expensive and painstaking process, with a single age test often costing around 1,000 euros.

Although the sky-high proportion of adult migrants entering Belgium under the guise of being ‘underage’ and ‘unaccompanied’ may come as a shock to some, the figures mirror developments recorded across much of Western Europe in the past several years, including France, Sweden, Germany, and Austria.

Last year in France, after the Directorate of Security of the Paris Metropolitan Area (DSPAP) established a fingerprint database with the cooperation of authorities in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, the Paris police prefecture positively identified 229 migrants living in the country officially as ‘unaccompanied minors,’ 94% of which were actually adults

Similarly, in Sweden, a 2017 investigation carried out by the National Board of Forensic Medicine which checked the ages of some 6,600 ‘unaccompanied minors’ via X-rays of wisdom teeth and MRI scans of knee joints revealed that 84% of those examined were over 18-years-old.

In the same year, Germany’s Federal Office of Social Security in a report noted that nearly half of the 1,823 asylum seekers who had arrived in Hamburg claiming to be under the age of 18 were, in truth, older.  

Across Western Europe, droves of adult asylum seekers continue to claim to be minors for a number of reasons, chief among them being that ‘unaccompanied minors’ receive preferential treatment in the form of special protection from deportation, increased social welfare benefits, and in many cases, special rights in criminal prosecutions.

Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.