“In Italy, 24 Afghan teenagers were discovered sleeping in a sewer in Rome this spring, and last year two adolescents died in Italian ports — one under a semitrailer in Venice and another inside a shipping container in Ancona,” reports Caroline Brothers in the International Herald Tribune. While in Paris this year, Afghans for the first time outnumber sub-Saharan Africans as the biggest group of unaccompanied foreign minors to request admission to child protection services. “Afghanistan is hemorrhaging its youth into Europe,” said Pierre Henry, director ofFrance Terre d’Asile, an organization that works on asylum affairs.

The European Union does not keep statistics on the number of foreign children who wander Europe without their families, and the records of aid groups and government agencies vary greatly. But Blanche Tax, a senior policy officer at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Brussels, says that last year 3,090 Afghan minors requested asylum in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany — the European Union countries where their numbers rose the most sharply — more than double the 1,489 requests in those countries in 2007. Often, in Greece and Turkey, they are exploited as under-age labor and subject to beatings by the police, who also, as in Patras, Greece, go to lengths to destroy their squatter settlements.

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