Protecting migrant children from violence and exploitation

Syrian refugee child playing with puppets in Serbia
UNICEF/2017/Emil Vas

The challenge

Children uprooted by conflict and disaster continue to face heightened risks of violence, child labour and exploitation. Children who are travelling alone or who have been separated from their families are more easily preyed upon and more vulnerable to violence and abuse. Many refugee and migrant children miss out on an education, and many don’t have access to health care and other essential services. 

In recent years, large numbers of migrant and refugee children have arrived in the European Union (EU), fleeing from civil wars, poverty and persecution or in search for better opportunities. Authorities at national and EU level, civil society and a variety of partners are actively working to address a number of difficult challenges around the migration of children. These include the challenge of how to count how many children are arriving and when, in what circumstances and what types of services they need, how to establish care and custodial arrangements to protect children. 


The solution


UNICEF’s work to protect children has been focused on ensuring unaccompanied, separated and vulnerable children have access to quality protection services. We also advocate for increased collective efforts by governments, communities and the private sector to provide uprooted children with access to an education and health services and to shelter, nutrition, water and sanitation.

  • Major EU  and UNICEF protection programmes include supporting host communities to facilitate the integration of displaced children. For instance, in Afghanistan, we help strengthen national systems to increase access to protection services for Afghani children on the move in Afghanistan and Iran.
  • UNICEF and the EU have worked closely on child protection activities in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syria Crisis – also known as the ‘Madad’ fund. 
  • Further, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific is coordinating the implementation of a cross-regional, multi-country programme, co-funded by the EU, to ensure that children affected by migration are protected and their rights promoted.
Syrian refugee girl in Jordan
UNICEF/2016/Sebastian Rich
On 16 October 2016, Na'ama, 8, from a Syrian refugee family in the Jordan Valley, Jordan, where they have lived in a tent for four years. The family fled their home in Hama when the war reached their community.

"We saw people getting shot, and we lost cousins and uncles. That's why we left." – Na'ama, 8 years old