Thousands of unaccompanied and separated children are at daily risk of sexual and gender-based violence along the world’s migratory trails, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns in a new report, Alone and Unsafe.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC’s President, said: “The number of children migrating alone or without their families has grown substantially and alarmingly in the past decade. Tragically – unacceptably – these children are easy prey for abusers, exploiters and traffickers.
“A child who is migrating alone, without the love and protection of a parent, family member or guardian, is arguably one of the most vulnerable people in the world. The world is failing these children and we all need to do more to help them.”
Exact figures on the number of unaccompanied and separated migrant children are not available. However, the most recent UN estimate from 2017 suggests that there were 300,000 such children. IFRC believes the figure is much higher today.
Alone and Unsafe shows that when children are in transit alone or without their families, they are at very high risk of being assaulted, sexually abused, raped, trafficked into sexual exploitation, or forced into “survival sex”. It further shows that these threats extend from countries of origin, through countries of transit, and into countries of destination.
IFRC’s report calls on governments and aid groups to support it in the creation of dedicated ”humanitarian service points” along major migration routes where children and other migrants can receive assistance and support. It also calls on governments and aid organizations to scale-up investment in the training of frontline responders so that they can identify at-risk children and refer them to specialized services.
It also recommends that governments keep families together during immigration proceedings and avoid detaining children or their relatives as a result of their immigration status.