“During the last decade, irregular border crossings emerged as a new element in international migratory flows, with smuggling and trafficking networks being an essential part. Belgium has important sea connections with the UK, and is, therefore, an important migration transit zone, although many migrants are intercepted on Belgian territory during their tempt to reach the UK. Some are unaccompanied or separated children and adolescents, minors travelling without parent(s) or a legal caregiver. This study aims to gain insight about this population of unaccompanied minors travelling to the UK. We use the situation in Zeebrugge, one of Belgium’s main ports, as a case study. We analyzed 1,093 data files of unaccompanied minors intercepted in Zeebrugge, and carried out participatory observation at the shipping police station. The intercepted unaccompanied minors are mainly male, between 15 and 18 years of age, and from an Asian or Eastern European country. Of the 899 unique persons found in the data files, 113 were intercepted several times. After the interception, the Aliens Office gives the majority (82.9%) an identity document without a requirement to leave Belgium, while 15.3 per cent must leave Belgium immediately or within five days. In 82.9 per cent of the cases, a child protection officer is contacted to make a decision about the situation. In 67.2 per cent of these cases, no child protection measure is taken, and the minor may leave the police station; in 32 per cent of the cases, the minor is transferred to a centre, mostly crisis reception. Almost all unaccompanied minors are convinced they want to reach the UK to create a better livelihood, join a family member, or escape a difficult political situation. Nevertheless, most travel in difficult circumstances; are scared; and lack essential information about life in the UK, their possibilities in Belgium, what will happen if they are transferred to a centre, and so forth. Most minors also do not want to be transferred to a centre, and many – although not all – disappear again from the centres. This study has several implications concerning the kind of decisions taken by the legal authorities, the necessary physical and psycho-social care and the availability of an interpreter and social worker during the interception, the number of reception places and the care in these centres, and the tasks of the legal guardian. Finally, some limitations of the study are mentioned.” – Publisher’s description