Legal Treatment of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children against Spanish and International Legal and Political Parameters

di Gabriele Vestri

Preliminarily, we are obligated to place the figure of unaccompanied children. It is, thereby, important to establish the definitions that identify this figure warning that between international law and community law differences exist that can induce to consider the same situation, according to different legal aspects. 

In this sense, in 1997, UNHCR promulgated the definition of Unaccompanied Foreign Children (MENA, in Spanish), according to which these are “children and adolescents under 18 years of age outside their country of origin and who are separated from both parents or from the person who by law or custom had them under their care”. By 1999, the very UNHCR revised its own definition and introduced the concept of “separated”. This point of view seeks to substitute the concept of unaccompanied children for that of separated children.


Since the 1990s, Spain has had to face an immigration phenomenon until then unknown. This is the immigration of unaccompanied foreign minors. This newest category of immigrants has specific characteristics compared to displacement of adults. Mainly, they are children who arrive to Spain without the company of their parents or legal guardian. After recognizing this situation, it is interesting to verify the national and international legal treatment granted, considering also the medical tests performed to verify age, resulting in one of the main problems affecting all their legal treatment.

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