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Men and boys in displacement: Assistance and protection challenges for unaccompanied boys and men in refugee contexts

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Executive Summary

Refugee women and children face specific risks and their needs are, quite rightly, highlighted and addressed by the humanitarian community. However, the situation and specific needs of single male refugees is often less understood. This report aims to address this information gap. With a focus on the situation in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Greece, it aims to provide a better understanding of the gendered impact of the refugee crisis on unaccompanied adolescent boys, aged 13 to 17, and men, single or living separately from their families; and to highlight actual and potential gaps in the humanitarian response.

The report does not aim to compare the needs of refugee boys and men with that of refugee women and girls, or to downplay the specific risks faced by refugee women and girls. In exploring the situation, vulnerability and needs of unaccompanied male refugees, the report recognises the inter-connections and relations between different groups in crisis situations and crisis-affected communities, and argues that failing to address the needs of one group can have a direct, or indirect, negative impact on other groups.

Key findings

• Unaccompanied men and boys face challenges in daily mobility including the risk of harassment and hostility from security forces. Being an unaccompanied adolescent boy also generates greater risks of detention: in Greece, unaccompanied male minors are often scared to report their real age to the authorities because of a fear of being detained, thereby missing out on key protection and legal rights.

• A lack of legal status in many host countries means most refugees are unable to work and earn an income, or they have to work informally for low wages and with little protection from discrimination or abuse. Child labour is common particularly for adolescent boys. Unaccompanied male refugees are often under pressure to send remittances to their relatives, and the difficulty of earning an income does not just affect men’s ability to meet their own basic needs but also affects their sense of self-worth.

• Single unaccompanied men and adolescent boys can find it hard to access shared accommodation due to cultural limitations on having unrelated males in a household with women and girls. Sexual and gender minorities face additional prejudice and are often forced to live in poor quality, insecure housing and face threats of extortion and sexual exploitation.

• Unaccompanied boys and men can become socially marginalised and this can lead to reliance on and addiction to drugs and alcohol.