A refugee is an individual fleeing his home country as a result of war, violence or persecution. Alipui & Gerke (2018) reiterated a report by UNICEF, indicating that most children refugees are unaccompanied, having separated from their parents at the time of conflict. The number of children applying for asylum has increased over the past few years amidst increasing cases of psychiatric disorders. Some of these do not find safe-haven in their new homes due to unfavourable immigration policies.
According to Alipui & Gerke (2018), there are more than 22 million refugees across the globe and about 34, 000 people are displaced or forced into exile as a result of violence. The United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in 2017 that the number of child refugees under the organization’s protection has doubled to 8 million up from half that figure in 2005 (Eide &Hjern, 2013). More than 50% of these children are unaccompanied and without a parent or a guardian with them on the journey to their unknown new homes (Eide &Hjern, 2013). An increase in the number of those seeking asylum has also been reported. Child refugees in some countries like Ethiopia and Pakistan experience neglect and they lack basic needs due to this resource inadequacy.
The Lancet (2016) echoes a horrifying account revealing that children have imprisoned in detention facilities with inhumane living conditions. In September 2016, 9000 unaccompanied children who had entered Germany went missing Refugee children end up in the wrong hands, often being trafficked or experiencing slave-like child labour (Glendenning, 2015). Due to these traumatizing experiences, children refugees are more vulnerable to mental disorders which may negatively impact their education, confidence, values and various aspects of their lives.
First, children refugees have the right to proper education. The trauma they experience pushes their confidence levels below average. However, education can improve children’s confidence especially because they have academic goals that they have to achieve daily. Alipui and Gerke (2018) asserted that the refugee resettlement process needs adequate education in place so that the children have the chance to learn the native language and master the rhythm of day to day lives in their new environments.
Secondly, children refugees have the right to proper parental care. The nature of care received by refugee children when they are resettling influences their development process (Taylor, Debelle, & Modi, 2016). Good parental care positively impacts child development and reduces their vulnerability to psychiatric disorders experienced as a result of the harsh occurrences they undergo. Alipui & Gerke (2018) assert that UNICEF and UNHR reported to the 2016 refugee crisis in Europe by pioneering the provision of nutritional assistance, hygiene kits and establishing breastfeeding corners to improve refugee parental care.
Thirdly, they have the right to compassion. Many governments are passing immigration policies into law without thinking about the welfare of children. The convention of the rights of the child noted that the current refugee situation is an indicator of the insensitive migration policies (Taylor, Debelle, & Modi, 2016). The current political environment in Europe and the United States does not favour financial and social programs established to save refugees (Alipui & Gerke, 2018). Immigrant children are not responsible for what made them flee their countries. They are merely on the run for their lives. Policies should be sensitive to the needs of the children to prevent further suffering.
Finally, the children deserve a right to safety and medical care. Taylor, Debelle, & Modi (2016) noted that refugee reception experience impacts their well being, academic performance, productivity and probability of getting employed. Refugees should be hosted in safe environments which supports their safety and gives them an opportunity to unleash their potential (The Lancet, 2016). In the case of children immigrants, palliative care can help in treating their pain and prevent life-threatening diseases or conditions. More research needs to be done on the treatment of orphan diseases to improve the positive outcomes of treatment.
In conclusion, numbers indicate a worrying trend in the state of children refugees. It is expected that these children are protected against further harm, but this has not been the case as most of them are still denied fundamental rights such as that of proper healthcare, compassion, and education. Countries need to improve on their understanding of refugee needs and put up friendlier acceptance cultures. Reception centres should be rich in skilled staff that can provide clear strategies for enhancing the education and health of the refuges.
Alipui, N., &Gerke, N. (2018). The Refugee Crisis and the Rights of Children: Perspectives on Community‐Based Resettlement Programs. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2018(159), 91-98.
Eide, K., &Hjern, A. (2013). Unaccompanied refugee children–vulnerability and agency. Acta paediatrica, 102(7), 666-668.
Glendenning, P. (2015). Asylum seekers, refugees, and human dignity. Social Alternatives, 34(1), 27.
Taylor, S., Debelle, G., & Modi, N. (2016). Child refugees: the right to compassion.The Birmingham Medical journal (i6100). Birmingham Children’s Hospital, UK.
The Lancet. (2016). Migrant and refugee children need our actions now. Lancet (London, England), 388(10050), 1130.
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