Spike in refugee and migrant children travelling alone

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The UN Children’s Fund report calls for more countries to promote resettlement of migrants and refugees. Photo: GeorgievUN062484UNICEF

A five-fold increase in vulnerable children travelling on their own around the world has left more of them prey to "predatory" traffickers, the UN has said.

UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, issued the warning along with data showing "at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated youngsters" on the move in 2015 and 2016.

Five years earlier, the figure was 66,000 children.

Here's Daniel Johnson in Geneva.

More children are being uprooted by war, violence and poverty around the world every day – five times more – latest UNICEF data shows.

Here's Afshan Khan, Regional Director for UNICEF:

"And what that means for children is there's no end of misery, ruthless smugglers, rampant sexual and physical abuse, and forms of slavery and detention that we've not seen in many years."

In the 80 countries that feature in its report, the UN Children's Fund says that nearly three in every 10 victims of trafficking are youngsters.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, it's twice that number.

This has led to stories like Mary's, UNICEF says: the unaccompanied 17-year-old from Nigeria wanted to get to Europe, but she ended up being held for months in Libya, where a trafficker she trusted raped her.

In less than a week, powerful world leaders will be gathering for a summit in Sicily, an island that's seen thousands of children arrive on its shores from North Africa in recent years.

In an appeal to the G7 Summit, the UN Children's Fund has unveiled a six-point plan for refugee and migrant children.

It includes ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating and a call for Member States to help keep families together.

Countries such as Germany and Canada have shown how children can be protected and resettled when there is sufficient political will, UNICEF says.

Italy deserves praise too, it adds, for recently adopting a new law to treat refugee and migrant children as Italian children, but other countries need to follow suit.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’31″

 

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