Rethinking Vulnerability: European Asylum Policy Harmonization and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Minors
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors (UAMs) are often labelled as an increasingly vulnerable group by practitioners and policy-makers alike. The aim of this paper is to interrogate the vulnerability of UAMs by situating the issue at the intersection of laws that, on the one hand, explicitly seek to secure universal child protection and that, on the other hand, seek to exclude and deter migration, even of those seeking asylum, to the EU,. This paper attempts to rethink the vulnerability of UAMs by addressing the contentious relationship they have with their country of asylum, rooting this vulnerability in Europe’s recent political and economic developments. It explores the growing critical vulnerability-protection literature on young refugees, challenging the strict conception that UAMs are inherently vulnerable. It will be contended that the vulnerability of UAMs is often produced by the ways in which they are excluded through the legal and policy frameworks of the countries they find themselves in. Consequently, the harmonization of EU asylum policies may not necessarily result in the protection of UAMs because a salient factor framing their experience in Europe - the growing hostility towards “illegal migrants” - remains unaddressed.