Guest post. Is denying refugee children protection akin to denying children a childhood?

UNICEF released a report last month entitled “A Child is A Child”, which sets out ways through which governments can better protect children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation.

The global report highlights the five-fold increase in the number of refugee and migrant children travelling unaccompanied since 2010, revealing furthermore that of the 60,000 refugees currently in Greece and unable to continue their journeys into Central and Western Europe, one third are children.

Children are risking their lives by sneaking onto freight trains headed for Western Europe in the hope of making it across the border without being discovered. These journeys include hiding in small spaces on-board trains, with no guarantee of survival.

Whilst some children may reach their destination, this does not always result in safety. Some children may fall into the hands of smugglers who help them across the border and then sell them into slavery or the sex trade. The report states that 92% of children who arrived in Italy in 2016 were unaccompanied and approximately 300,000 unaccompanied children moving across borders were registered in 80 countries in 2015/2016.

By labelling children as refugees and migrants, it is easy to forget that they are amongst the most vulnerable group in society. Through the “A Child is A Child” report and #ChildrenUprooted campaign, UNICEF is calling on global leaders and international governments to take action to protect refugee and migrant children every step of the way.

The UNICEF report was published ahead of the G7 meeting and is calling on governments to implement the following

  1. Protect refugee and migrant children from violence and exploitation
  2. End child detention
  3. Keep families united
  4. Give refugee and migrant children access to education and healthcare
  5. Tackle root causes of refugees and migration
  6. Combat xenophobia and discrimination in countries of transit and destination

Asylum and migration related policies need to go a step further to ensure that child refugees and migrants are treated as a priority and afforded the same rights and protection as children in the host or destination country.

By failing to protect child refugees, political leaders and governments are failing to protect their childhoods.

Articles 6.1 and 6.2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that every child has the right to life and State Parties should ensure the survival and development of the child.

Currently 196 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Therefore it is especially incumbent on these countries to ensure that the rights of refugee and migrant children are protected to the fullest extent. Without these rights these countries are failing themselves and their responsibilities.

A child’s humanitarian situation should not lead to less protection, but more, it should not lead to less empathy but more and should not lead to less safety but more.


This article was written by Caroline Alabi. Caroline is a currently undertaking a Student Dissertation Placement with Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees (Church of Scotland) as part of her  MSc International Development​ course at The University of Edinburgh. She also holds an undergraduate degree in BA Business and Politics. Her work experience includes working as an Area Volunteer Manager with Cancer Research UK, working with Hope not Hate as a Faiths Community Organiser campaigning against the BNP (British National Party) in the 2010 local elections in Barking & Dagenham and also a year spent volunteering with Women’s Rights NGO ‘Corporacion Vamos Mujer’ in Medellin, Colombia. She  is fluent in Spanish and is also a Trustee for ICYE UK (Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange) specialising in Corporate Partnerships.



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