UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said on Thursday in Geneva that the millions of children on the move without protection has become unacceptable.
Grandi, who made the remarks at the opening of the 2016 ‘Dialogue on Protection Challenges’, highlighted the challenges confronting the protection of millions of children.
The UN refugee chief regretted that many children were separated from their families as they fled wars and persecution, and called for prompt action to stave off the risk of losing an entire generation.
“Children are exposed to criminal smugglers and traffickers. The fact that they often have no protection – even from people traveling with them – exposes them to all types of exploitation.
“We cannot accept this. We need to fight back, we need to find ways to address this situation,” he stressed.
Grandi recalled the commitments made by UN Member States at the September’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and called on them to ensure that refugee and migrant children are protected.
“For instance, in the New York Declaration, the Summit’s outcome, Heads of States and Government reaffirmed their ‘commitment to protect the human rights of migrant children, given their vulnerability.
“They committed themselves particularly to protecting unaccompanied migrant children, and to provide access to basic health, education and psycho-social services, ensuring that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in all relevant policies’.”
The UNHCR chief added that the detention of children to determine their migration status must stop and called on all States to document all child births in their territory to prevent and reduce the risk of statelessness.
He also called for timely solutions for children and youth – including expanding “legal pathways” such as resettlement opportunities and increased family reunion, as well as quick access to quality education.
According to UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), children account for 51 per cent of the total 21.3 million refugees around the world and many of them end up in detention facilities.
The UN refugee agency said the situation could have a serious impact on the children’s physical and mental health as well as their life-long development, adding that they also miss out on years of education as a result of displacement.
UNHCR said children were also particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and the risk of statelessness.
‘Children on the Move’ is the theme of the 2016 two-day annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which started on Thursday and ends on Friday.