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.