U.N. Sees Massive Increase in Refugee and Migrant Children
The U.N. says there has been a five-fold increase in the number of refugee and migrant children on the move. Some 300,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum or were intercepted at borders during 2015.
The report from UNICEF, the children’s agency, compared the recent surge with 2010 when 66,000 minors were recorded to be crossing borders.
“Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution,” said UNICEF’s Justin Forsyth. “It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”
The report highlighted the central Mediterranean route where nine out of 10 children arriving in Italy did so alone. UNICEF estimated that 700 children from Eritrea, Gambia, Nigeria, Egypt and Guinea had drowned last year.
“The sexual exploitation of girls and boys is big business,” said Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF’s Latin America regional director.
“Because the difference with this and other crimes and exploitation is that a girl who is exploited sexually is seen as merchandise that can be used again and again,” Perceval told Reuters.
Pakistan Launched Drive to Register Undocumented Afghans
A U.N.-backed campaign has begun in Pakistan to register 600,000 undocumented Afghan refugees. Afghanistan will assist the registration drive by providing 100 staff.
It is unclear what will happen to Afghans once they are registered, as Pakistan is committed to ejecting all Afghan refugees.
Pakistan has more than 1.3 million documented Afghan refugees and estimates suggest as many as 1 million undocumented Afghans.
Some 600,000 Afghans were repatriated during 2016 under a scheme denounced by rights groups as forced returns. Authorities in Pakistan have led a well-documented campaign of threats and harassment against the Afghan refugee population to drive them out of the country.
The U.N. has been criticized for assisting the Pakistan government by offering $400 to returning Afghans. This amount has since been halved as donor funds dry up and the budget is needed to support Afghans returned to abject poverty in the home country.
Brazil Readies for Refugees From Chaos in Venezuela
Brazil is planning for an influx of refugees from Venezuela as conditions in the country deteriorate.
Brazil’s defense minister said that current cross-border traffic was a warning sign and that his country must be prepared.
“Evidently we are worried and our biggest concern is the humanitarian situation,” said Raul Jungmann, defense minister. “We need to have a contingency plan in place to handle this if things get worse.”
Oil-rich Venezuela is in the grip of a prolonged economic and political crisis. Food shortages and violent protests have forced tens of thousands of Venezuelans to cross borders in the last year.
Some 6,000 Venezuelans cross the border every day to find food and medicine but most return after a short stay. In Brazil’s border state with Venezuela, Roraima, there are already 30,000 Venezuelans.
Indigenous women and children from Venezuela have started to beg in the streets of Manaus, the biggest city in Brazil’s Amazon region, something not seen on this scale before.
The U.N. refugee agency has visited refugees in Roraima’s capital, Boavista: “We are here to familiarize ourselves with the situation, see the local response capability and help prepare to receive an influx of people if that were needed,” a UNHCR spokesman said.
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