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UNICEF report shows five-fold increase in refugee and migrant children travelling alone since 2010 (22 May 2017)

Date: 22/05/2017
Duncan Lewis, Immigration Solicitors, UNICEF report shows five-fold increase in refugee and migrant children travelling alone since 2010

UNICEF has said that there has been a five-fold increase in number of refugee and migrant children travelling alone since 2010 – a record high.

In a new report, UNICEF reveals that at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in 80 countries in 2015-2016 – an increase from 66,000 unaccompanied children travelling alone in 2010-2011.

The report A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation says that an increasing number of children follow routes considered to be “highly dangerous”, putting them at risk of being trafficked by people smugglers.

The report also finds that 200,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum across 80 countries in 2015-2016 – and 100,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the US to Mexico border in 2015-2016.

A total of 170,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe in 2015-2016 – and unaccompanied and separated children account for 92% of all children arriving to Italy by sea in 2016.

Children also account for around 28% of trafficked individuals globally – and as many 20% of people smugglers have links to human trafficking networks.

The reports also reveals that Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims, at 64% and 62%, respectively.

UNICEF says the findings demonstrate a need for a global protection system to keep unaccompanied children “safe from exploitation, abuse and death”.

The charity has called on the UK government to do more to ensure that refugee and migrant children are safe and protected when trying to reach the UK – as well as changing the regulations on reuniting families, to enable children to join family members in the UK from their countries of origin or transit, and remove the need for them to travel alone to Europe.

UNICEF UK says that, by developing cross-border protection for children –and putting in place resettlement schemes beyond the 2020 deadline for such schemes – the UK can ensure that all unaccompanied children “have the stability and support they need to rebuild their lives”.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said:

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

“Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain – helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution.

“It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”

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