More unaccompanied minors sought protection in Greece last year compared with the one before that, data published by the European Union's statistical agency on Friday show.
According to Eurostat, 2,640 children traveling without a parent or guardian applied for asylum in Greece in 2018 against 2,455 in 2017, putting the country near the top of the European Union member states with the largest number of applications, behind Germany (4,100), Italy (3,900) and the United Kingdom (2,900).
In total in 2018, 19,700 asylum seekers applying for international protection in EU were identified as unaccompanied minors, Eurostat reported. This was a drop of more than one-third compared with 2017 (31,395) and below the 2014 level (23,100), when the first increase was observed after remaining at a relatively constant level of around 12,000 per year between 2008 and 2013.
Unaccompanied minors accounted for 10 percent of all asylum applicants aged less than 18 at the EU level last year, the agency added. The vast majority of the applicants were boys, at 86 percent, and most of them were aged 16 or 17 years old. Just 7 percent were aged 14 or less.
In Greece, 92.6 percent of unaccompanied minors who sought protection last year were boys, with 6.8 percent of those being aged below 14. Minors accounted for 12 percent of all the asylum applications made in Greece in 2018. Most of these applications were made by children from Pakistan and Afghanistan (30 pct each) and 14 percent were from Syria.