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Caritas is urging that proper protection be given to the millions of children who now make up an astonishing half of the world’s total refugees.

“Many children have been made to travel alone as refugees or economic migrants,” says Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, Head of the Caritas Delegation at the UN in Geneva. “They face a great risk from human traffickers and sexual predators. Their voices often go unheard and their needs are forgotten or ignored. “

Conflicts, civil unrest and lack of economic opportunities in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has seen a marked increase in 2015 in the flow of refugees and economic migrants to the European Union

Conflicts, civil unrest and lack of economic opportunities in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has seen a marked increase in the flow of refugees and economic migrants to the European Union. Photo by Caritas Serbia

Caritas says the need to protect and welcome them is urgent. It has found that in some countries, emigration is becoming almost obligatory for the young generation, which is growing up with the sole prospect of trying to get to Europe.

On March 15th 2017, at a parallel event to the 34th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Caritas is joining with the International Catholic Migration Commission and the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN, to examine why more lone children are on the move and the impact on them.

The parallel event, “Unaccompanied Children on the Move: Preserving their Dignity and Rights” will be held between 11.00 and 13.00 at the Palais des Nations, Room XXIV. At 10.00, Rev. Fr. Fabio Baggio and Rev. Fr. Michael Czerny, Under-Secretaries in the Dicastery of the Holy See specialising in refugees and migration, will hold a press conference in Press Room 1.

At the parallel event, Dr Elisa Manna of Caritas Roma will offer direct experience of the challenges posed by the continually rising number of child refugees and migrants. Caritas Roma runs 3 reception centres where children stay for around 50 days and 2 accommodation centres where they are supported until they are 18.

In 2016, Caritas Roma cared for 375 unaccompanied minors – 96% of whom were from Egypt, Albania and Gambia. Their average age was 16, but just over 10% of the children were aged between 11 and 14. 20% of the children explained that they were either orphans or had untraceable parents, many had very little schooling and most said their parents were labourers, farmers or had no job. The girls among them reported sexual exploitation by traffickers.

For more information please contact Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar (Head of Delegation) or Floriana Polito (Humanitarian Policy Officer), +41 22 734 4005/7, or e-mail aalonso@caritas-internationalis.com, fpolito@caritas-internationalis.com