A new UNICEF report shows the number of child refugees has doubled since 2005
The number of uprooted children across the world has reached 50 million, according to a new report from UNICEF, and 28 million of those children have been driven from their homes by conflict.
As a result of conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the number of child refugees doubled between 2005 and 2015, meaning that one in every 200 children in the world today is a refugee.
‘Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,’ said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake today.
‘But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger – and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children.’
So how is the UK responding to this call for compassion? By building a ‘big, new wall’.
No, it’s not Donald Trump speaking. Robert Goodwill, the minister of state for immigration, yesterday confirmed that the work is about to begin on a £1.9m wall at Calais, funded by the UK.
The wall will replace fencing along the Calais ferry port’s dual carriageway approach, to prevent migrants from attempting to board lorries.
Earlier this week, UNICEF UK estimated that 2,000 times each week, children with a legal right to be in the UK are risking their lives to try and cross the channel. That figure doesn’t include all the children in the camp — only those who have family in Britain and are legally entitled to join them here.
But instead of being safely resettled by the government, they are being left in the appalling conditions of the Calais camp for months on end, pushing them to take desperate measures.
What’s more, migration experts agree that the wall — like all the other walls and fences going up across Europe — will not even achieve its designated function.
As François Guennoc of Auberge des Migrants, a French aid group working in Calais, told the Guardian:
“This wall is the latest extension to kilometres of fencing and security surveillance already in place. It will just result in people going further to get round it.
When you put walls up anywhere in the world, people find ways to go round them. It’s a waste of money. It could make it more dangerous for people, it will push up tariffs for people smugglers and people will end up taking more risks.”
Goodwill and his colleagues in government might be better off reading UNICEF’s six recommendations for supporting and protecting child migrants. It calls on governments to:
• Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
• End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
• Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
• Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
• Press for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
• Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.
Admittedly, the report doesn’t specify that governments shouldn’t build anti-refugee walls, but we feel its implicit.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.