(Vatican Radio) The chief of Europe's top human rights body says laws in several European countries that prevent migrant children from reuniting with their families or force them to leave when they turn 18 create a "huge security risk". Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland made the comments amid international concern about the treatment of asylum seekers in countries such as Hungary.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Jagland said in published remarks that several European countries are effectively forcing young people into crime and extremism by preventing them to reunite with their families. When they turn 18, he said, they are told to leave the country, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation from human traffickers who could push them into crime or the illicit sex trade.
The rights official called that a security risk for Europe and a self-inflicted wound many of them people will become in his words "criminals and maybe also terrorists."
He noted that governments in some European nations are under huge pressure from what he described as "right-wing extremist forces" to deal with an influx of migrants.
Hungary, for instance, has come under European Union pressure to change recently adopted legislation that allows for the detention of all asylum seekers, including children, in container camps.
The Council of Europe has urged authorities to offer appropriate shelter and schooling to migrant children as a way to keep them from fleeing.
Jagland, who is from Norway, said he suspects there are many more migrant children unaccounted for in Europe than the 10,000 that has been estimated because they fear they will be expelled when they become 18-years-old.
The European Union's statistical agency, Eurostat, said last week that more than 63,000 children traveling without adult supervision applied for asylum last year in the European Union's 28 nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Eurostat said more than half of the unaccompanied minors were Afghan and Syrian nationals and more than two-thirds were 16 and 17-year-old boys. Almost 6,300 were under age 14.
The agency says some 60 percent of the applicants sought asylum in Germany.