Médecins du Monde plaide pour la reconnaissance des mineurs non accompagnés comme des enfants en danger. © Olivier Papegnies

Unaccompanied minors


of exiles in Europe are children


of UAM are excluded from care

The situation

Children and adolescents at risk

The number of children is increasing among exiles. Today, in Europe, more than one exile in three is a minor. Among these children and adolescents, some of them are alone, without their parents. They are " unaccompanied minors " (UAM),also called " isolated foreign minors " (EIM). While some left their countries of origin alone, others were separated from their families during their migration. Some seek to join a family member in another country, others seek protection in France.

All of them are children and adolescents at risk who need and should be protected, under the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, both of which have been ratified by France.

Alors qu'ils devraient être à l'abris et accueillis de manière bienveillante, ces enfants sont confrontés au doute et au soupçon. © Olivier Papegnies
Alors qu'ils devraient être à l'abris et accueillis de manière bienveillante, ces enfants sont confrontés au doute et au soupçon. © Olivier Papegnies

Suspected rather than protected

While they should benefit from the protection of Child Welfare (ASEinfo-icon), unaccompanied minors are greeted by a suspicion policy, where the presumption of majority or fraud is almost always the norm. Exhausted, worried, confused, they must demonstrate their minority and their isolation before they can benefit from a respite, shelter or medical or psychological care.

70% of those assessed are denied child protection care because they are not minors or isolated.

To verify their eligibility for protection, UFMs are subject to an assessment of their minority during which the examiner seeks to demonstrate that they are not minors: questioning of their identity or history, intimidating interrogations, destabilizing questions, judgment on appearance, clothing or attitude, questioning of identity documents.

Bone tests

To check his or her minority, the youth may be subjected to "bone tests", during which the radiography of his or her wrist is compared with standards dating back to the 1930s.

These tests do not determine age but compare bone maturation and have a margin of error of up to 2 years.

Young people who are not recognized as minors at the end of these assessments may apply to the juvenile judge to rule on their situation, but this appeal does not have a suspensive effect.

Excluded from child protection schemes and yet not of age, they cannot benefit from adult schemes. They often spend long months on the streets, left to their own devices, without administrative status, in deplorable living conditions and access to care and rights.

Those who can do so go to court hoping to see their minority finally recognized and protected until they turn 18. Almost half of these children and adolescents who contest the decision of refusal of care are finally recognized as minors by the courts.

On file

The government has just passed a law to register all young people who seek protection as unaccompanied minors. The objective is to prevent a young person who has already requested protection in one department from reporting again to another.

Besides, if he is not recognized as a minor at the end of the administrative assessment, he may be registered in a



file as an adult in an irregular situation and be subject to a removal order without having been able to consult the juvenile judge.

Our action

Care and protect

Médecins du Monde met more than 1,700 unaccompanied children and adolescents in 20 French cities in 2017.

This was made possible through our programs dedicated to this audience in Caen, Nantes, and Paris, as well as in its reception and care centers and on its mobile missions.

Our teams provide psychological, medical and social support to these young people without protection or facing difficulties in their care, through reception centers, consultations, and psychosocial activities.


Beyond "immediate assistance", we are also leading a political fight to testify to these situations, document them and bring them to justice to make this situation evolve.

We wish to call on local and national authorities to contribute to the improvement of public policies and to change law and practices to facilitate access to care and promote the effectiveness of unaccompanied minors' rights.

Médecins du Monde regularly takes legal action to ensure that protective measures are applied and that the rights of unaccompanied minors are protected.

Our intervention sites

France métropolitaine

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