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UNICEF urges better protection for refugee and migrant children

UNICEF urges better protection for refugee and migrant children

Be it to escape war in Syria or gang violence in Central America, natural disaster or starvation, increasing numbers of children are on the move and are travelling alone, UNICEF said in a report.

The agenda includes protecting unaccompanied children from exploitation, violence and detention, keeping families together and giving children access to education and healthcare.

It said over half the total, 170,000, requested asylum in Europe, and 92% of the children who have arrived in Italy were unaccompanied or had become separated from their parents. Border closures, aggressive pushback measures, overcrowded shelters, makeshift camps and heavy-handed authorities have only served to exacerbate the risk of child exploitation, encouraging unaccompanied minors to take highly unsafe routes in a desperate bid to reach their destinations.

At least 300,000 children were registered at borders in 80 countries from 2015-16.

Those who survived the journeys recounted harrowing stories of abuse along the way, including a 17-year-old girl from Nigeria who told officials that she was raped in Libya by a man who had promised her passage to Europe. "It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators", stated Mr. Forsyth.

"Now the people who paid for my trip are saying to my mother, it's time for money", she said. Mary was trapped in Libya for more than three months where she was abused.

Almost two million people from a population of 12 million have fled South Sudan in the growing crisis - one million of those fleeing are children. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims at 64 and 62 per cent, respectively.

Speaking from the largest refugee camp in the world in Uganda, World Vision chief advocate, Tim Costello, said the organisation has registered thousands of children travelling alone in the last 10 months.

Further, as much as 20 per cent of smugglers have links to human trafficking networks.

With the G7 meeting in Italy next week, UNICEF is calling on governments to address the problem and adopt their six-point plan.

Frist and foremost, the agency says, children need protection, highlighting the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, through which State Parties commit to respect and ensure the rights of "each child within their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any kind".

A new report released on Thursday outlines the vulnerability children face as refugees and urges to governments do more to help the growing crisis.