Number of migrant children traveling alone hits record high

Around 300,000 unaccompanied children were recorded globally from 2015-2016

Number of migrant children traveling alone hits record high

Refugees cross the Macedonia-Serbia border in this January 2016 file photo | Image: UNHCR/Igor Pavicevic

The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has reached a record high.

A new report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) shows that at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015–2016, which is up from 66,000 in 2010–2011.

At least 300,000

Legal issues 

Millions of children are on the move across international borders mainly fleeing from violence and conflict. 

When they can’t find opportunities to move legally, children sometimes have to resort to dangerous routes and engage smugglers to help them cross borders.

Children and others fleeing conflict, violence and persecution have their rights protected, at least in law, under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

In practice though, they may find few legal means to move out of harm’s way. States have made it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers and migrants to enter their territories.

Carrier sanctions prevent airlines from taking on board passengers without the necessary entry permits, leaving people who genuinely need protection unable to get on a flight to seek asylum.


According to UNICEF, the current system is failing refugee and migrant children. States have a responsibility to uphold their rights and protect all children within their borders, without exception. 

Traffickers and other exploiters thrive especially where state institutions are weak, where organized crime abounds, and also where migrants become stuck and desperate.

UNICEF's report shows that 92% of children who arrived to Italy by sea in 2016 were unaccompanied. Which is up from 75% in 2015.
Of those children who arrived in Italy, 75% reported experiences such as being held against their will or being forced to work without pay. 
Meanwhile, UNICEF said that around 200,000 unaccompanied and separated children applied for asylum in 2015 and 2016 in about 80 countries while about 100,000 were apprehended at the border between Mexico and the United States during the same period.
That means taken together a total 300,000 children demonstrates a dramatic rise, compared to the 66,000 which was recorded in 2010–2011.
A significant factor for the increase is due to conflict in places like Syria and South Sudan which is causing continued displacement. 
Another factor for the increase, is the fact that children who have been separated from their families are traveling alone in the hopes of reuniting with them.