Six actions for refugee children
Ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all refugee children.
Over the past decade, the global refugee population has more than doubled, with children making up almost half of the world’s refugees. These children need the world’s solidarity and support. From Ukraine to Afghanistan, Myanmar to Syria, every refugee child has the same rights. UNICEF stands with all refugee children, because wherever they come from, and whenever they are forced to flee, they have equal rights.
Ensuring refugee children and their families have access to education, health, child and social protection is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, because they bring with them talents, skills and aspirations that can help us all build better societies.
UNICEF calls for six actions to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all refugee children:
1. Provide equal support to all refugee children – wherever they come from.
The response to the Ukraine refugee crisis has demonstrated what is possible when welcoming refugees – from opening education, health and social protection systems, to providing opportunities for families to work and integrate. Countries must extend this welcome to all refugee children across all refugee crises. Governments must guarantee the universal right to seek and gain asylum and expand access to resettlement and other durable solutions to all refugees.
2. Recognize refugee children as children first and foremost – with rights to protection and participation.
To ensure every refugee child and young person’s right to protection and participation, governments must integrate refugee children into national child protection systems as soon as possible, invest in empowering and upskilling refugee youth, and ensure that youth- and refugee-led organizations have a seat at the table at local and global fora where policies and decisions affecting them are shaped.
3. Include refugee children and families. It’s a win-win.
When refugee families can access basic health, education and social protection services, it creates a win-win situation where refugees, local communities and economies can all benefit from accelerated social and economic development. All refugee children should be integrated into national education systems and have access to free and quality health services and social protection, regardless of migration or asylum status.
4. Protect refugee children from discrimination and xenophobia.
Everyone has a part to play in welcoming uprooted children into our cities and communities and combating xenophobia: from local leaders, religious groups, NGOs, the media and the private sector, we must all come together to collectively protect refugee children from discrimination and xenophobia. Governments should develop plans for long-term integration, allocate resources to strengthen community services for all, and provide opportunities for youth to get involved in addressing these issues.
5. End harmful border management practices and child immigration detention.
Border closures and aggressive pushback measures can leave children and their families stranded in countries where they do not want to stay, are not welcome, or have few prospects. Detention is never in a child’s best interest, and there is an international consensus around child immigration detention as a human rights and child rights violation. States must uphold access to territory and protection for children seeking asylum, and implement practical alternatives to detention for all children.
6. Empower refugee youth to unleash their talents.
Reaching safety is just a start. Once they are out of harm’s way, refugee children and their families need opportunities to heal, learn, work and thrive. UNICEF calls for governments, policy makers, donors and partners – from the public and private sector and civil society – to increase recognition of and investment in the mental health, resilience and wellbeing of refugee children and youth, to effectively bridge the gap between aspirations and opportunities and to unlock the potential and wealth of their untapped talent.