Mariana Stoyanova, the Program Manager of Refugee –Migrant Service for the Bulgarian Red Cross, told us that recently she has seen an influx in unaccompanied minors, and that they are getting increasingly younger, with the youngest being 9 or 10 years old. According to the 2011 recast qualification directive, the European Union (EU) Legislation regarding unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied minor is defined as: “a minor [under 18] who arrives on the territory of the Member States unaccompanied by an adult responsible for him or her whether by law or by the practice of the Member State concerned, and for as long as he or she is not effectively taken into the care of such a person.” Additionally, the member state must appoint a representative for unaccompanied minors and place minors in: “appropriate care and custodial arrangements, which are in the best interest of the unaccompanied minor.” Appropriate care includes foster care or accommodation centers for children.
However, according to Mariana, while Bulgaria must appoint a representative to look after unaccompanied minors when they arrive, in practice “looking after” only means helping the child with the process of registration. In September 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that unaccompanied minors were consistently being held with adults in poor conditions, and some minors did not have a legal representative. It is clear, on behalf of unaccompanied minor refugees, that there's much cause for concern.
Written by: Katie Masi