Geneva, 3 December 2018 – Thousands of unaccompanied and separated children are at daily risk of sexual and gender-based violence along the world’s migratory trails, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned today.

The shocking situation is revealed in a new report, Alone and Unsafe, launched as governments prepare to meet in Marrakech, Morocco, to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (9-11 December).

Francesco Rocca, IFRC’s President, said: “The number of children migrating alone or without their families has grown substantially and alarmingly in the past decade. Tragically – unacceptably – these children are easy prey for abusers, exploiters and traffickers.

A child who is migrating alone, without the love and protection of a parent, family member or guardian, is arguably one of the most vulnerable people in the world. The world is failing these children and we all need to do more to help them.”

Exact figures on the number of unaccompanied and separated migrant children are not available. However, the most recent UN estimate from 2017 suggests that there were 300,000 such children. IFRC believes the figure is much higher today.

Alone and Unsafe shows that when children are in transit alone or without their families, they are at very high risk of being assaulted, sexually abused, raped, trafficked into sexual exploitation, or forced into “survival sex”. It further shows that these threats extend from countries of origin, through countries of transit, and into countries of destination.

IFRC’s report calls on governments and aid groups to support it in the creation of dedicated ”humanitarian service points” along major migration routes where children and other migrants can receive assistance and support. It also calls on governments and aid organizations to scale-up investment in the training of frontline responders so that they can identify at-risk children and refer them to specialized services.

It also recommends that governments keep families together during immigration proceedings and avoid detaining children or their relatives as a result of their immigration status.

IFRC’s Rocca said: “This report serves as a timely reminder of just how important the coming Marrakesh Conference is. The Global Compact for Migration is a chance for governments to make life safer for tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of incredibly vulnerable children. It is an opportunity that governments simply cannot afford to miss.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent stands ready to help turn those commitments into a safer, more dignified reality.”

Note to editors:

Alone and Unsafe combines an extensive review of literature with interviews of specialists from a number of humanitarian agencies, as well as findings from research missions to Afghanistan, Honduras, Niger and Turkey. Importantly, it also draws heavily on the experience of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff in Benin, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. The full report is available here.

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Media contacts

For interviews with President Rocca:

Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367,

In Geneva:

Matthew Cochrane, +41 79 251 8039,

Alison Freebairn, +41 79 251 9333,

In New York:

Melissa Winkler, +1 646 734 0305,


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