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Fri, 7 August 2020

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Nearly 50 million children “uprooted” worldwide - report

Nearly 50 million children “uprooted” worldwide - report

UNICEF UK

4 min read Member content

A new report by Unicef presents new ‘sobering’ data on the lives and situations of millions of children and families displaced by crisis and points to six specific actions the UK can take to help them. 


The Government is being urged to do more to ensure that refugee children stranded in Europe can reach safety with their families in the UK, as a new report from Unicef UK reveals the number of uprooted children across the globe has reached nearly 50 million.

The charity presents new data that paint a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children and families affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than remain at home.

The report, Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, shows that of the 50 million displaced children, 28 million who have been forcibly displaced by conflict and violence and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life.

Many are at particular risk of abuse and detention because they have no documentation, have uncertain legal status, and there is no systematic tracking and monitoring of their well-being – children are falling through the cracks.

As the children flee their homeland, they face the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder. Unaccompanied children are among those at the highest risk of exploitation and abuse, including by smugglers and traffickers. 

Children make up 31% of all refugees and migrants who have arrived by sea in 2016, and around 45 per cent of those stranded in south-east Europe. They represent a disproportionate and growing proportion of those who have sought refuge outside their countries of birth: they make up about a third of the global population but about half of all refugees.

Europe hosts approximately one in nine of the world’s refugees and, according to Eurostat, in 2015 there were 88,265 asylum claims by unaccompanied children in the European Union, of which only 3,045 were in the UK (3.4%). With so many barriers to resettlement and family reunion from Europe, it is unlikely that the UK will greatly increase its share of this in 2016.

By the end of 2015, an additional one million asylum-seekers in Europe were also waiting for a decision on their asylum applications.

More and more children are crossing borders on their own. In 2015, over 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries – triple the number in 2014. 

Around 100 children have had their asylum cases transferred to the UK from other EU countries in the past year under the Dublin III Regulation.

The report points to six specific actions that will protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:

  • Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.​
  • Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
  • Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
  • Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
  • Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  • Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.

Lily Caprani, Unicef UK Deputy Executive Director, said: “Today, nearly one in every 200 children in the world is a refugee. In the last few years we have seen huge numbers of children being forced to flee their homes, and take dangerous, desperate journeys, often on their own. Children on the move are at risk of the worst forms of abuse and harm and can easily fall victim to traffickers and other criminals.

“Many of these children wouldn’t resort to such extreme measures if the UK Government made them aware that they may have a legal right to come to the UK safely and if they provided the resources to make that process happen before these terrible journeys begin.”

She added. “At the historic summits in New York this month, the UK has a chance to show vital leadership on this agenda.”

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