An unaccompanied minor is a child without the presence of a legal guardian. This term is used in immigration law and in airline policies. The specific definition varies from country to country and from airline to airline.
In immigration law unaccompanied minors, also known as separated children, are generally defined as foreign nationals or stateless persons below the age of 18, who arrive on the territory of a state unaccompanied by an adult responsible, and for as long as they are not effectively taken into care of such a person. It includes minors who are left unaccompanied after they entered the territory of state.
Most European and North American countries have experienced an increase in unaccompanied minors’ flow. The majority of minors are male, between 15 and 18 years, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Western and Central Africa and Somalia. Most apply for asylum after arriving in the receiving country.
A few countries have non-asylum procedures in place to adjudicate unaccompanied minor cases. In Spain most cases fall under the non-asylum procedure. In the United States in addition to asylum certain vulnerable unaccompanied minors may be eligible for a T visa (trafficking victim), U visa (victims of crime), or Special Immigrant Juvenile status (abused, neglected, or abandoned child).
In airline policy an unaccompanied minor is an airline passenger aged between 5 and 14 years old (airline regulations vary) who travels without an accompanying adult. A parent or guardian who requests for this service fills out a release form, identifying another guardian who will pick up the minor at the destination airport. Airline personnel are responsible for escorting the child through immigrations and customs and boarding the flight in time. A fee may be payable for this service.
During the flight, no special attention is given to the minor until the flight enters final descent to the destination. On descent, the UM is moved to the nearest exit, which could be in business or first class, so that he or she can leave the aircraft at first opportunity and be transferred to the local ground staff. After clearing immigrations and customs, the child is released only to the adult identified on the paperwork.
Some airlines have controversial unaccompanied minor seating policies which discriminate against adult male passengers on the basis of gender. The policies bar unaccompanied minors from being seated next to adult males and have led to significant criticism and successful legal action.
Some airlines will not carry unaccompanied minors.
In popular culture
The 2006 film Unaccompanied Minors is about a team of six unaccompanied minors.
- Unaccompanied minors Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration - International Organization for Migration Brussels
- Workshop on Unaccompanied Minors Intergovermental consultations on migration, asulym and refugees, 9–10 December 2009
- Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- U Visa for Immigrants who are Victims of Crimes U.S. Immigration Support
- Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Unaccompanied Minors Project
- BA changes child seating policy following court case BBC News, 23 August 2010
- BA compensates man 'humiliated' over child seat policy BBC News, 24 June 2010