Austria has the highest proportion of asylum-seeking children in the EU, according to the Fundamental Rights Report published Thursday by the Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), APA reports.
The number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum more than doubled in Austria in 2022, with 13,275 applications, according to the report.
This puts Austria at the top of the EU, followed by Germany (7,275) and the Netherlands (4,205).
In 2021, 5,605 children had applied for asylum in Austria.
Across the EU, the number of asylum applications from children has also risen sharply – from 25,130 applications in 2021 to 39,520 in 2022, according to the report.
In Austria, the number of asylum-seeking children was also higher in the previous year than in 2015, the so-called migration crisis year, according to the report. In 2015, 8,275 applications were registered in Austria.
The rising number of asylum applications has led to declining reception capacities in Austria in the second half of 2022, according to the report. There was a shortage of about 5,000 shelters in Austria.
The report mentions that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has criticized the use of tents to house asylum seekers in very cold conditions.
Further, the report said the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, also found deficiencies in the system of guardianship for unaccompanied children after a visit to Austria.
In Austria, unaccompanied children are already assigned a legal representative when they apply for asylum, but full-fledged guardians are not appointed until children between the ages of 14 and 18 are admitted to the asylum process and placed in a state reception center.
This could take weeks or months if an age determination is required. According to the Austrian Ministry of Justice, a working group has been established to develop a proposal for legal reform of the guardianship system.
According to the FRA report, an integration monitor by the statistics office also found that two out of five migrants from Afghanistan, Russia, Syria and Türkiye experienced discrimination in Austria at least occasionally.
Discrimination was more widespread in the workplace, in job-seeking and in education than in other areas. Accordingly, 33% of respondents from Serbia and 48% of respondents from Syria stated that they had experienced discrimination in this context.