Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers – Asylum applications

Asylum seekers who entered Austria without being accompanied by an adult responsible for them or were left on their own in the country are referred to as unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (UMAs). As such, they are entitled to receive special protection.

In the wake of the refugee crisis in Europe since 2015 the numbers of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers have reached record levels. In 2015 a total of 8,277 UMAs claimed asylum in Austria, with 743 (9%) being under-age children of less than 14 years. At 7,880, the vast majority, 95.2% of all unaccompanied minors applying for asylum, were male. In 2016 this figure had dropped by over half (to 3,900), although it still far outstripped the numbers of asylum seekers seen in previous years.

Compared with the size of its population, Austria received a higher-than-average number of asylum claims from unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. If the years 2015 and 2016 are combined, the figure was more than five times the EU average – Sweden was the only country to receive more applications.

Unaccompanied minors seeking asylum 2010 − 2016 / Countries of origin (Top 18)
Sources: Federal Ministry of the Interior, asylum statistics, Annual statistics for asylum seekers 2004-2016

CountryUnder 14 years14 to 17 yearsTotal
Russian Federation67


Between 2005 and 2010 the total number of all asylum applications from unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (UMAs) rarely reached 1,000 per year (only in 2009 was this level marginally exceeded at 1,062). An average of 736 applications/year were submitted between 2004 and 2010, with the lowest value, 414 claims, being recorded in 2006.
In contrast, the average between 2011 and 2016 was four times this figure (2,975 per year). As mentioned earlier, a record number of 8,277 applications was received from unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in 2015. In 2011 and 2012 this figure had already risen by almost 500 per year, mainly due to an increase in the number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers from Afghanistan in these two years. This was followed by a fall to less than 1,000 in 2013 before increasing for the first time to almost 2,000. 2014 then saw a sharp rise in UMAs fleeing from Syria – the first time this happened since war had broken out there. An above-average number of applications were however also submitted by persons from most of the other main countries of origin in 2014, with numbers rising in 2015. (For a more detailed breakdown of claims from UMAs by country of origin, see Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers – Applications by country of origin).
In 2016 this figure was down more than 50% on the previous year. The number of 3,900 applications was nonetheless double the long-term average between 2004 and 2016 (1,769 per year).

Most unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are male. Since 2008 the share of men has always exceeded 85%, fluctuating slightly between 85.5% and 95.5% (averaging 92.1% between 2008- 2016). In the record year of 2015, 95.2% of all minor asylum seekers were boys or male adolescents, with this figure rising to 94% in 2016. Over the last 10 years the number of unaccompanied male asylum seekers has averaged a good 70%. When compared with all minor asylum seekers, the share of men in this figure has remained far higher than the number of unaccompanied female applicants. In terms of age (whether over 18 years), the deviation between all minor asylum seekers and those who were unaccompanied is even more marked. While between 2008 and 2016 roughly a third (average: 30.7%) of all minor asylum seekers were generally between 14 to 17 years, this figure among unaccompanied asylum seekers invariably exceeded 90% in the same period, peaking in 2014 at 94.2%. At 90.4% in 2016, almost all unaccompanied minor asylum seekers were aged 14 years or above.

When compared with Europe, during the nine years between 2008 and 2016 Austria always ranked among the five countries with the largest number of asylum claims from UMAs in terms of its population size. Austria ranked between third and fifth place until 2013, was second to Sweden in 2014 and 2015, before registering the greatest number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. Prior to 2014, the number of claims varied between 7.2 (2010) and 16.4 (2012) UMAs per 100,000 persons living in Austria (averaging 11.2 from 2008 to 2013). At 23.2, this value exceeded the level of 20 UMAs per 100,000 inhabitants for the first time in 2014. In 2015 it then rose to almost 100 (96.5 per 100,000 inhabitants) – a level five times the EU average. Only Sweden received significantly more applications during this year: more than 350 UMAs per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2016 Austria saw this figure plummet over 50% to 44.9 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers per 100,000 inhabitants compared with the previous year. Overall, this level was also almost five times the EU average since 2008.

From January to August 2017, 1 263 UMAs applied for asylum – of which 125 were under the age of 14.

Further informations

  • According to estimates of the Federal Ministry of Finance regarding the budgetary impact of the influx of refugees, „allowable“ additional costs (for both adults and children) as defined by the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) were assumed to be € 0.4 billion or 0.11% of GDP in 2015 and € 0.8 billion or 0.21% of GDP in 2016. For 2017 a fall in spending on refugees is assumed, measured as a percentage of GDP (2016: € 1.67 billion or 0.48% of GDP; 2017: € 1.71 billion or 0.47% of GDP).
  • With the Basic Care Agreement 2004 the Federal Government and the Länder have jointly professed their responsibility to provide care for asylum seekers. The costs of board, accommodation and care for alien minors and unaccompanied minor aliens in the Austrian federal care system (initial reception facility Traiskirchen – EAST Ost) are included in the general basic care costs for asylum seekers. With a maximum daily rate of € 95, the costs for accommodation and care amount to € 2,898 per month for every unaccompanied minor asylum seeker.
  • For 24-hour care every unaccompanied minor alien (UMA) has his or her own supervisor on hand to act as a comprehensive point of contact for matters of whatever nature. The staffing/child ratio here is at least 1:15. The key areas of such care range from detailed structuring of children’s daily routine (German lessons and classes in integration, educational programmes and leisure activities, etc.) through psychological support for UMAs to communication of social skills and conflict prevention. Minors of compulsory school age are offered the opportunity to attend „bridging classes“ at the federal care facility. The main objective of this care is to prepare minors to live independently (e.g. to keep house, manage money, structure their daily routine).
  • The costs for the provision of age-appropriate accommodation and care for every unaccompanied minor asylum seeker aged less than 14 years amount to € 5,068 per month. In addition to the standard level of care for minors, „paid mothers“ are also enlisted to act as reference persons for unaccompanied minor aliens under 14 years of age.
  • As of 1 October 2017, 133 unaccompanied minor aliens found themselves in Austria’s federal care system (ORS Service GmbH), and 3,184 in the care of the Länder.
  • Overview of age-diagnostic procedures: On average, about 500 age-diagnostic procedures are commissioned per year. The result of the investigations shows that on average in 61% of cases the applicant was found to be over the age of 18.


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