Alone and Unsafe: Children, migration, and sexual and gender-based violence

The number of children on the move, including those traveling alone, has grown substantially and alarmingly in the past decade. In 2017, it was estimated that at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated child migrants were in transit in 80 countries – a five-fold increase from five years earlier. The number of children migrating alone worldwide right now is likely much higher. Children on the move are easy prey for abusers, exploiters and traffickers and their vulnerability puts them at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence at every stage of their migratory path. When children are in transit alone, they are at very high risk of being assaulted, sexually abused, raped, trafficked into sexual exploitation or forced into “survival sex”.

This study seeks to improve understanding of the risks and types of sexual and gender-based violence faced by children who migrate on their own, as well as the unfortunate and widespread gaps in protection and assistance for these children. It looks closely at the situation in dangerous or remote locations – places that are fragile, conflict-ridden, underserved and hard to reach, where children may be particularly vulnerable. The study also identifies actions that are urgently needed, by governments and humanitarian organizations, to better protect and assist children migrating on their own and reduce the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, as called for in the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The study draws on interviews with specialists from a number of humanitarian agencies, an extensive literature review, and research missions to Afghanistan, Honduras, Niger and Turkey. Importantly it also draws heavily on the experience of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff in Benin, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. 

Published 2019-03-19