Nearly fifty million children around the globe have been uprooted from their homes, including twenty-eight million displaced by violent conflict and in dire need of humanitarian assistance and critical services, a report from UNICEF finds.
The report, Uprooted :The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children (140 pages, PDF), found that an estimated ten million children have fled their countries due to conflicts and other crises, one million are asylum seekers whose refugee status is yet to be determined, and another seventeen million have been internally displaced. The ten million refugee children under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees's mandate — more than double the number of a decade ago — account for about half of all refugees worldwide, while in 2015 about 45 percent of all child refugees were from Syria and Afghanistan.
The report also found that an additional twenty million child migrants have left their countries of birth for reasons such as extreme poverty and gang violence, and that more and more children are crossing borders on their own. In 2015, more than a hundred thousand unaccompanied minors — triple the 2014 number — applied for asylum in some seventy-eight countries. According to the report, unaccompanied minors are among those facing the greatest risk of exploitation and abuse by smugglers and traffickers.
While an analysis of the impact of migration in high-income countries has found that migrants contribute more in taxes and social payments than they receive and contribute to economic growth and innovation, the report notes that families and children who have left or have been forcibly displaced from their homes often miss out on the potential benefits of migration. For example, a refugee child is five times more likely to not be attending school than a non-refugee child, and when they do attend school, they often face discrimination. The report calls for more concerted efforts to protect refugee and migrant children, especially unaccompanied children, from violence and exploitation; ending the detention of child asylum seekers and migrants; keeping refugee families together; ensuring access for refugees to education, health, and other services; addressing the underlying causes of large-scale displacement and migration; and fighting xenophobia, discrimination, and marginalization.
"What price will we all pay if we fail to provide these young people with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood?" said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF. "How will they be able to contribute positively to their societies? If they can’t, not only will their futures be blighted, but their societies will be diminished as well."