June 24, 2017

Number of Unaccompanied Refugee and Migrant Children Hits 'Record High'

19 May 2017, 02:32 | Rodolfo Wallace

UNICEF on Wednesday called for better protection for refugee and migrant children crossing borders on their own

UNICEF on Wednesday called for better protection for refugee and migrant children crossing borders on their own

"One child moving alone is too many, and yet today, there are a staggering number of children doing just that - we as adults are failing to protect them", Forsyth said.

The agenda includes protecting unaccompanied children from exploitation, violence and detention, keeping families together and giving children access to education and healthcare.

The report also instructs that from 2016 until February 2017, 92% of children who went to Italy on a trip from the Mediterranean in Libya were migrating alone. Border closures, aggressive pushback measures, overcrowded shelters, makeshift camps and heavy-handed authorities have only served to exacerbate the risk of child exploitation, encouraging unaccompanied minors to take highly risky routes in a desperate bid to reach their destinations.

UNICEF said 170,000 of those children sought asylum in Europe in 2015-2016, many after making the treacherous trip across the Mediterranean Sea where hundreds of children are estimated to have drowned a year ago.

When they can't find opportunities to move legally, children sometimes have to resort to unsafe routes and engage smugglers to help them cross borders.

"We must build upon the work done to bring children to safety from Calais a year ago and improve our rules on family reunion". When describing the smuggler turned trafficker who offered to help her, she said, "Everything (he) said, that we would be treated well, and that we would be safe, it was all wrong". Mary was trapped in Libya for more than three months where she was abused.

100,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S. -Mexico border in 2015-2016. The report added that 170,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe from 2015-16.

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Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.

The boom in global migration has been matched by a massive increase in smugglers, according to Europol.

Frist and foremost, the agency says, children need protection, highlighting the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, through which State Parties commit to respect and ensure the rights of "each child within their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any kind".

TRT World's Sarah Morice has more on the plight of these child refugees.

UNICEF is also urging the public to stand in solidarity with children uprooted by war, violence and poverty, by supporting the six-point agenda for action.

UNICEF called on the countries where children have sought refuge to provide better services, saying many "languish in overcrowded shelters, end up in makeshift camps or are left exposed to the dangers of life on the streets".

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