The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has reported that more than 300,000 unaccompanied children fled war, poverty, and desperate circumstances in order to relocate to Europe or the United States in 2015 and 2016. The numbers are staggering: 170,000 sought asylum in Europe, an increase of nearly 10 times since 2008, and a third crossed into the United States across the border with Mexico. UNICEF says that the number of children traveling alone has risen fivefold since 2010-2011.
Many unaccompanied minors spend months or years in refugee camps. Some are detained or deported, or are treated without regard to their legal rights.
In pursuit of a better life:
- Many of the young migrants have parents at home, but some don’t. When they arrive in a new country, they often face difficulties as dire as the ones they left behind.
- Along the way, these young migrants are vulnerable to dangers such as trafficking and exploitation. Slavery, prostitution, and other forms of abuse often await them.
- In the United States, unaccompanied children who are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security are cared for by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Many who slip through the government bureaucracy become homeless.