August 2, 2016

Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015

4. Asylum seeker demography: Young and male

Since 2013, the demographic profile of asylum seekers in the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland has become slightly more male (67% in 2013, 71% in 2014 and 73% in 2015), with a steady share of asylum seekers arriving under 35 years of age (80% in 2013 and in 2014, 83% in 2015).

Among all asylum seekers in 2015, about two-in-ten (19%) were male minors (0 to 17 years of age), compared with one-in-ten who were female minors. And while about four-in-ten (42%) asylum seekers were young adult males (18 to 34 years of age) in 2015, just about one-in-ten (11%) were young adult females in the same age bracket.

These age and gender patterns are largely consistent across some of the largest asylum seeker groups, including those from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Somalia. The large proportion of young males and comparatively smaller shares of young adult women and female children suggests that many refugees from these source countries are young men traveling alone. This situation seems especially likely in the case of asylum seekers from Pakistan and Bangladesh, among whom three-quarters were males ages 18 to 34 in 2015. By contrast, data suggest that asylum seekers from countries like Russia, Serbia and Ukraine tend to relocate as families: Fully 30% to 50% of asylum seekers from these countries were minors accompanied by adults.

Unaccompanied minors have been largely teenage boys, most from Afghanistan

The percentage of unaccompanied minors among all asylum seekers to Europe rose in 2015 , reaching roughly 7% of all asylum applicants. Between 2008 and 2015, about 70% to 80% of these unaccompanied minors annually were boys ages 14 to 17. About 10% annually were girls in the same age cohort. Since data on unaccompanied minors have been tracked by Eurostat starting in 2008, about 10% of unaccompanied minors annually have been ages 13 and under in any given year.

Since 2008, 39% of all unaccompanied minor asylum seekers have come from Afghanistan. In all, about 77,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly teenage boys, have made the trek from Afghanistan to Europe. A further 19,000 unaccompanied minors from Syria have applied for asylum between 2008 and 2015. And an additional 13,000 unaccompanied minors from Somalia as well as 12,000 from Eritrea have sought asylum in Europe since 2008.

Since 2008, more than half of unaccompanied minors have arrived in Sweden, Germany or the UK. Indeed, about three-in-ten unaccompanied minor asylum seekers to Europe applied in Sweden, yet Sweden was the destination for only about one-in-ten (12%) of Europe’s total number of asylum seekers during the period.