The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children

 Addis, holding his 30-month-old son, Lato, sits in a cell at the Alguaiha detention centre in the coastal town of Garabulli in Libya.


Around the world, nearly 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced – and this is a conservative estimate. More than half of these girls and boys fled violence and insecurity – 28 million in total.

These children may be refugees, internally displaced or migrants, but first and foremost, they are children: no matter where they come from, whoever they are, and without exception.

Children do not bear any responsibility for the bombs and bullets, the gang violence, persecution, the shriveled crops and low family wages driving them from their homes. They are, however, always the first to be affected by war, conflict, climate change and poverty.

Children in these contexts are among the most vulnerable people on earth and this vulnerability is only getting worse. The number of child refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) mandate has more than doubled in just 10 years – this shocking statistic is simply unacceptable.

Their world is no place for a child.

Migrating and displaced children are at risk of some of the worst forms of abuse and harm. Often dependent on human smuggling, they can easily fall victim to traffickers and other criminals. Many are subjected to extreme forms of abuse and deprivation during their journeys.

The violations have to stop.

When, and if, these children reach destination countries, the threats they face do not disappear. Despite extraordinary and generous actions to help them in many places and by many people and organizations, children and their families struggle to gain a foothold. Refugee and migrant children disproportionately face poverty and exclusion at a time when they are in desperate need of essential services and protection.

Supporting displaced and migrant children at home and globally is a shared responsibility – shared because no one is untouched by the impacts of the multiple crises in the world.

Children’s voices, their plight and the issues they face must become the focus of international debates on migration and displacement.

This report presents, for the first time, comprehensive, global data about these children – where they are born, where they move, and some of the dangers they face along the way. The report sheds light on the truly global nature of childhood migration and displacement, highlighting the major challenges faced by child migrants and refugees in every region.

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