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The world is failing child migrants at risk of violence, exploitation and sexual abuse

Thousands of unaccompanied and separated children are at daily risk of sexual and gender-based violence along the world’s migratory trails.

A boy looks out over Hamam Alil displaced peoples camp in Iraq. Photo: IFRC/Tommy Trenchard/Panos Pictures

The warning comes from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). 

The situation is revealed in a new report, Alone and Unsafe, launched as governments prepare to meet in Marrakech, Morocco, to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (9-11 December).

“The number of children migrating alone or without their families has grown substantially and alarmingly in the past decade,” says IFRC’s President, Francesco Rocca.

“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.”

The most recent UN estimate from 2017 suggests there were 300,000 such children. IFRC believes the figure is much higher today.

The report shows 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 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 points along major migration routes where children and other migrants can receive humanitarian assistance and support. It also calls on governments and aid organisations to scale-up investment in the training of frontline responders so that they can identify at-risk children and refer them to specialised 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.

 “This report serves as a timely reminder of just how important the coming Marrakesh conference is. The Global Compact for Migration is a chance for governments to make life safer for tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of incredibly vulnerable children,” says Mr Rocca.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including Australian Red Cross, stand ready to support States in implementing the opportunities, including the protection of children, of the Global Compact for Migration