War and poverty have forced 50 million children around the world from their homes, according to UNICEF. The number of child refugees has doubled in the last decade, the report “Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children” states.
Up to 28 million of the children have been uprooted by violent conflict, with nearly as many abandoning their homes in search of a better life, says the report released by the UN agency.
“There are nearly 50 million children in the world that are either refugees, migrants or internally displaced,” Unicef Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth told reporters at a briefing on the new report.
He said of that number, 28 million children have fled violence or conflict. “That is a near doubling of child refugees in the last decade. It is a tripling of the numbers of unaccompanied children,” he said. “It’s a growing crisis; it’s a children’s crisis.”
Of the 28 million children, 10 million are child refugees and one million are asylum-seekers whose status has not yet been determined. The remaining 17 million children are displaced by conflict and remain within the borders of their home countries.
The report said 45 percent of the children refugees came from just two countries: Syria and Afghanistan.
Children make up about a third of the world’s population, but account for almost half of all refugees UNICEF said in its report issued on Tuesday.
“What’s important is that these children on the move are children. And they should be treated as children,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programs in Geneva. “They deserve to be protected. They need access to services, such as education.”
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These children are travelling alone, with 100,000 unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in 78 countries in 2015, three times the number in 2014, the report found. Because these children often lack documents, they are especially vulnerable.
The report estimates another 20 million children are migrants, driven from their homes by poverty and gang violence among other things. UNICEF called on the international community to provide protection, education and health services to these children and for governments to address the root causes contributing to the large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
“We’d like to see some clear commitments and practical measures,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth told journalists in New York. “The burden sharing of this crisis is not fair: the greatest burden is supported by neighboring countries or the poorest countries.”
How to help displaced, refugee and migrant children?
The report points to six specific actions that will protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:
- • Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
- Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
- Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
- Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
- Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
- Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.