Some 50 million children live far from their country or place of origin as refugees. They were forced to escape violence or to migrate in search of better opportunities. This is what UNICEF, the United Nations organization for children affairs revealed in a recently completed report.
BY being away from their homes and more often than not, away from their families, tens of millions of children face severe risks, such as becoming underpaid workers, physical and mental abuse or being captured and sold as sexual slaves.
In a report entitled Uprooted, the UN agency for children notes that between 2005 and 2015 the number of refugee children doubled, while the number of migrant children increased by 21%.
In total, 31 million children now live outside their countries of birth, including 11 million refugees and asylum seekers, while there are 17 million children who have been displaced within their own countries.
Of the nearly 50 million children away from their homes, more than half were forced to flee conflict or violence. As you may suspect, countries that face war or sectarian violence include Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Honduras, El Salvador and others.
UNICEF analyzes the situation of these children and demands that their governments implement concrete actions to improve their protection.
Among them, the report proposes to end the detention of children migrants, keep families together to protect children and ensure access to education for all.
“This is a growing crisis that the world faces, whether in Asia, in America, in the Mediterranean or in some other countries”, explained at a press conference the deputy executive director of UNICEF, Justin Forsyth.
According to the report, some 100,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in only in 2015.
UNICEF stressed that children represent a “disproportionate and growing percentage” of all displaced persons and account for nearly half of all refugees in the world.
In addition, there is a growing number of children crossing borders alone. According to the report, in 2015 some 100,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in 78 countries, three times more than the total from 2014.
Those children traveling unaccompanied are highly exposed to exploitation and abuse by smugglers and traffickers, recalls UNICEF.
Education also suffers greatly when a child is forced to leave their place of origin. Refugees are five times more likely not to attend school than other children.
From all the countries that host more refugees in the world, 10 are in Asia and Africa, with Turkey in the lead in absolute terms. After Turkey, in countries like Lebanon one in five people is a refugee.
“In Europe many governments feel this is an overwhelming crises, but it is important to remember that by far the greatest burden is assumed by countries in the region where crises occur,” Forsyth said.
Of all children under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 45% come from Syria and Afghanistan. These two countries are examples of many others that have been under constant attack by western imperialist powers, such as the United States or France, or by terrorist organizations supported and financed by NATO countries.
However, the problem also affects other regions such as Africa very significantly. There the displacement occurs mainly within countries or between nations or neighbors.
In the American continent, four out of five of children refugees live in one of three countries: United States, Mexico or Canada. As it was explained earlier, a high and growing number of vulnerable children are moving on their own within the continent, often fleeing violence in their homes and communities in South and Central America.
The UNICEF report comes a few days before New York hosts two major summits on the crisis of refugees. The first meeting will take place on 19 September and is being organized by the UN and the second meeting, which is an initiative of the United States government, is to be held the next day, 20 September.