Authorities are investigating the apparent suicide of an 11-year-old Afghan boy at a refugee camp in Austria. The child had reportedly been struggling to help care for his six siblings at the camp in Baden, south of Vienna, where they had lived since last year. He died a day after being taken to hospital in the capital, police said. They did not reveal how he had taken his life.
Austrian ombudsman Guenther Kraeuter announced an inquiry into the boy's death following claims, reported by public broadcaster Oe1, that authorities had been aware of the family's difficulties. Austrian media reported that the boy had been left in charge of his siblings by his 23-year-old brother. Authorities said they noticed “nothing unusual”.
The boy's death appeared to be the latest in a wave of suicides among young refugees in Europe. The UN's children agency Unicef has denounced “the lack of protective measures for migrant children in Europe”, accusing EU member states of doing “much too little”. Human Rights Watch warned in July that a deal struck by the EU to slow refugee boat crossings to Greece was driving levels of suicide and self-harm upwards. Asylum seekers detained on islands in the Aegean Sea described how they saw people setting themselves on fire, hanging themselves and cutting their wrists in desperation at their squalid living, according to a report by the organisation.
Dozens of asylum seekers, including children, reported rising anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses as they were forced to wait months on end in “horrific conditions” to see if they would be granted passage to the Greek mainland or deported to Turkey. There have been reports that Afghan refugees are sometimes treated as “second class” in comparison to Syrians by Western governments, with the asylum process for Afghans reportedly taking much longer due to a belief that many Afghans are not forced to leave their homes but rather are economic migrants.