United action needed now for child refugees: UNICEF
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NEW YORK/GENEVA, September 6, 2015 – Europe has a brief window of opportunity, before winter approaches, to protect and care for the tens of thousands of children seeking refuge, UNICEF said today.
About a quarter of those seeking refuge in Europe this year are children. More than 106,000 children have claimed asylum within the first half of 2015, up 75 per cent from last year.
“Canadians have been heartbroken by the images and stories coming out of this crisis—particularly those of children who have been killed, orphaned and traumatized by experiences we can’t even imagine,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. “Most importantly, Canadians want to help. Time and again Canadians have been generous and shown great empathy when children are in need—whether it be from natural disaster or conflict-driven emergencies. We encourage Canadians to continue to support humanitarian efforts to ensure that children caught in the crosshairs of this crisis receive the care and life-saving support they desperately need.”
Many refugee and migrant children in Europe are living in overcrowded and inadequate conditions, where they are at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Many are sleeping out in the open air; as winter approaches, the health of young children is especially at risk, including from the threat of diseases like pneumonia. Only concerted action to accommodate and care for children now will prevent more deaths and suffering in the months ahead.
With the growing numbers of children making perilous journeys into and across Europe, collective action with a fair distribution of responsibility across the European Union is essential. This should include putting in place a number of immediate safeguards for children and their families:
- Safe, child-friendly reception facilities as children arrive, with access to health care, psychosocial support, recreation and schooling.
- More resettlement places across Europe and humanitarian visas for children and their families. The processing of asylum cases should be timely, and always focus on the best interests of the children.
- Stronger commitment to resettlement of refugees from countries in conflict to reduce the likelihood that refugees resort to unsafe routes and people smuggling.
- Stepped-up search and rescue operations at sea and on land.
- Speeding up family reunification programs for separated and unaccompanied children.
- Adequate numbers of trained child welfare specialists to care for and counsel children and families.
Such care is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides for the protection of all children—whether on the move from their homes, on the seas, over land, or on the shores of destination countries.
UNICEF urges the international community to address the root causes of this huge movement of desperate children through more vigorous efforts to end conflicts, and to provide the required development and humanitarian support in countries of origin.
Canadians can help by donating to UNICEF’s Syrian crisis response at unicef.ca
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UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.