Number of child asylum seekers in EU soared in 2021, with many from Afghanistan

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FILE PHOTO: Refugees and migrants wait as they take part in a pre-registration process that gives them access to the asylum procedure, at the premises of the disused Hellenikon airport

(Reuters) - The number of unaccompanied children who sought asylum in the European Union in 2021 jumped by 72% as the number of refugees arriving from Afghanistan rose sharply, the bloc's statistics office said on Wednesday.

Overall however, the number of asylum seekers who were granted protection in the European Union fell 5% last year, Eurostat said, without giving reasons.

Eurostat said 23,255 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum last year, up from 13,550 in 2020. Most of those who came from Afghanistan, where the Taliban seized power from the former U.S.-backed government last August, were male and aged 16 or 17.

The war-torn country's economy collapsed last year and thousands fled after U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew.

EU states granted asylum in 267,360 cases last year, of which half of applicants were deemed to be refugees and the remainder given subsidiary and humanitarian protection status.

Syrian citizens accounted for over a quarter of successful asylum cases last year, followed by Afghans and Venezuelans. Germany, France and Italy were their main destinations.

Based on available data, EU countries granted asylum to 5,070 unaccompanied minors, 34% of whom received refugee status.

(Reporting by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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