Children unaccompanied and separated (UNICEF, 2016 and House of

Children suffer the most during humanitarian crises and conflicts
happening around the world. In 2016, UNICEF estimated 535 million children
lived in countries affected by conflict or disasters, amongst them nearly 50
million have been forcibly displaced from their homes.1 Besides increasing vulnerability to
exploitation, violence or casualties, children may be unaccompanied or
separated from their families and caregivers (Red Cross, 2004), which makes
them more vulnerable to violence, exploitation or abuse.

 

Among the children in crisis, the situation of unaccompanied
children is dire due to age, legal status and many other factors. According to
UNICEF, there are 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children recorded worldwide
in 2015 and 2016, which is five–fold higher since 2010.2 Yet
it is not possible to say how many unaccompanied children are in worldwide as a
whole (House of Lords, 2016). The research shows that ongoing conflicts,
displacement and their underlying factors have caused more children to be
unaccompanied and separated (UNICEF, 2016 and House of Lords 2016), as well as
forced or encourage to migrate (IOM, 2011). For instance, 51% unaccompanied
child applicants in the EU were Afghan (House of Lords, 2016: 5) in 2015.

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Unaccompanied
children leaves their home countries for different reasons and motivations (Tal
Schreier, 2011: 61-75), including the result of war and conflict, natural
disasters, mass population displacement, political strife and instability
(Carlson et al, 2012: 259-269), forced recruitment as child soldiers, harmful
cultural practices (Tal Schreier, 2011: 61-75), violence and poverty (Dorothy
McLeod, 2016: 1). Some children are often migrate for better opportunities
including education or work opportunities (Liv Feijen, 2008: 63-73). Moreover, children
may also be smuggled or carried by an agent showing false papers opportunities
(Liv Feijen, 2008: 63-73), which makes them “illegal”3 to in some Governments’ eyes.

 

Regardless of
their reasons for migrating, they are mostly vulnerable to violence and
exploitation (Tal Schreier, 2011: 61-75), due to separation from
caregivers of social or economic protection, and due to their means of travel
and stay including awful living conditions upon arrival (Liv Feijen, 2008: 64).
Moreover, improved border controls, restrictive asylum systems, lack of child-sensitive
reception and asylum procedures, and insufficient legal representation and
guardianship procedures are causes that further complex the vulnerability of
unaccompanied minor (Liv Feijen, 2008: 63-73). In addition, unaccompanied children
face difficulties, such as risk of arrest, detention due to illegal entry (ACHILLI,
Luigi, et al, 2017), or lack of suitable entry into the national protection
system (Liv Feijen, 2008: 63-73), which often leads many unaccompanied children
to avoid accessing humanitarian assistance or registering with state
authorities (ACHILLI, Luigi, et al, 2017) and disappear without a trace (Liv
Feijen, 2008: 63-73).

 

Consequently,
many unaccompanied children forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms
(UNHCR, 2014)4
which often multiply and stimulate exploitation including, and not limited to, child
labor, monetary and sexual exploitation (Human Rights Watch, 2017).5

 

Despite their
vulnerabilities related to migration, these unaccompanied children has
extensive needs: along with the malnutrition, instability and trauma
experienced (Dorothy McLeod, 2016: 3) prior to migration, including being
targeted by violent perpetrators of organized crime. (UNHCR 2012). Research shows
that rates of emotional and behavioral problems are typically very high among
UACs (Bronstein & Montgomery, 2013: 285-294), due to loss of one or both
parents, as well as the loss of contact with other family members (Carlson et
al, 2012: 259-269).

 

In addition
to stressors related to migration and separation from their family, unaccompanied
children are also often subject to discrimination or stereotyping, and struggle
with questions of their identity (Simich & Mallozzi, 2016: 1-52). Moreover,
they faces difficulties to adjusting home life in a new cultural environment
(Carlson et al, 2012: 259-269), including language, appearance (Simich &
Mallozzi, 2016: 1-52). From above discussion, it is clear that unaccompanied
children are some of the most vulnerable migrants and require special “child protection” 6  and care appropriate for their situation (Tal
Schreier, 2011: 61-75).

 

1UNICEF, (2016) Press Release. “Nearly a quarter of the world’s children
live in conflict or disaster-stricken countries”. https://www.unicef.org/media/media_93863.html

2 UNICEF (2017), Press Release. https://www.unicef.org/media/media_95997.html

3 The term “illegal” migrant has been defined as “non-citizens who have
no valid leave to enter and/or remain within a State”, which can be the case
when someone arrives without a visa, avoids border controls, shows falsified
documents, overstays his or her visa or is issued with a deportation order, for
example, following a negative asylum application. Source: Council of Europe,
“The Human Rights of Irregular Migrants in Europe”, CommDH/IssuePaper,

17 Dec. 2007,
1.

4
UNHCR (2014) Woman Alone: The fight for survival by Syria’s
refugee women

5
Human Rights Watch (2017) Lebanon: Events of 2016

6UNICEF uses the term ‘child protection’ to refer to
preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children