Sat Aug 29th, 2009 at 05:02:28 AM EST
According to an article and accompanying photo essay, "The Lost Boys of Afghanistan", in The New York Times, thousands of Afghan minors have come to European Union countries seeking asylum.
"The boys pose a challenge for European countries many of which have sent troops to fight in Afghanistan but whose publics question the rationale for the war."
Thousands of lone Afghan boys are making their way across Europe, a trend that has accelerated in the past two years as conditions for Afghan refugees become more difficult in countries like Iran and Pakistan. Although some are as young as 12, most are teenagers seeking an education and a future that is not possible in their own country, which is still struggling with poverty and violence eight years after the end of Taliban rule.
Estimates by the Separated Children in Europe Program have about 100,000 unaccompanied children from non-EU countries living in the EU. Many of the minors are not asking for "protection in any form."
The majority of the Afghan boys are winding up in Greece, which does not have a foster system for foreign minors so the boys live in tents, abandoned buildings, under bridges, and tunnels if they make it into the country. "Many are teenagers seeking an education and the future that has not materialized in their own country, which is still struggling with poverty and violence eight years after the end of Taliban rule."
The boys requesting asylum are overwhelming the Greek system. Some Afghan refugees that are intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard before making landfall and are "held in the port of Mytilini before their transfer to a detention facility." According to Greek officials, only 300 asylum seekers can be "accommodated".
The Afghan boys are also appearing in other European countries. Afghan minors have "requested asylum in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany". According to Blanche Tax, a senior policy officer at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Brussels, those countries alone have received 3,090 asylum requests last year, "more than double the 1,489 requests in those countries in 2007".
In Italy, 24 Afghan teenagers were discovered sleeping in a sewer in Rome this spring, and last year two adolescents died in Italian ports -- one under a semitrailer in Venice and another inside a shipping container in Ancona...
And in Paris this year, Afghans for the first time outnumber sub-Saharan Africans as the biggest group of unaccompanied foreign minors to request admission to child protection services, said Charlotte Aveline, a senior adviser on child protection at City Hall.
And in Sweden, The Local reported waves of Afghan teens are seeking asylum in Malmö and other Swedish cities. "Many remain in limbo as most Swedish municipalities refuse to accept them."
After eight years of war led by the U.S. and backed by NATO, Afghan boys are looking for better life than faces them at home. They are fleeing their war torn home, explains the NY Times.
"Afghanistan is hemorrhaging its youth into Europe," said Pierre Henry, director of France Terre d'Asile, an organization that works with the European Union, the United Nations refugee agency and the French government on asylum affairs.
And still the fighting continues and Afghanistan's wounds worsen.