Trees only move in the wind: A study of unaccompanied Afghan children in Europe

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UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

‘A tree does not move unless there is wind’ is an Afghan proverb which, roughly translated, means ‘there is no smoke without fire’, or ‘nothing happens without a reason’. The proverb provides an appropriate title for a report that tries to explain why significant numbers of Afghan children are making the difficult and dangerous journey to Europe, unaccompanied by their parents. Afghans constitute one of the largest groups of unaccompanied children who are currently making their way to Europe and who are in some but not all instances submitting applications for refugee status there.

The body of this report is structured into 5 chapters. Chapter 1 gives background information on the study, while Chapter 2 provides a brief introduction to the current situation in Afghanistan and neighbouring refugee-hosting countries, and explains some of the factors that have shaped the movement of young Afghans to Western Europe and other distant locations. The following chapters, 3 and 4, analyze the profile of the recent arrivals and examine the way they are treated, both during their journey and once they are in Europe. Chapter 5 identifies some of the key policy issues arising from the arrival of unaccompanied Afghan children in Europe, while Chapter 6 presents a conclusion and a set of recommendations in relation to this issue. While this report focuses exclusively on Europe, its findings and recommendations are of equal relevance to other situations where unaccompanied Afghan children are to be found.

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