UNICEF Gender-based Violence Programme Overview: Refugee and Migrant Response (November 2019)
By September 2019, 82,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe since the start of the year via the Mediterranean migration routes. One in four (19,800) was a child, and around a third of them are girls. As of September 2019, 11,940 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) were registered in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the majority boys, and around 10 percent girls.
However, it is safe to assume that more children have been moving across the region and are not captured in the data due to limitations of national and regional data collection systems. Refugee and migrant boys and girls – some travelling with their families, some alone, some accompanied by unrelated adults, some with their spouses – risk everything, even their own lives, in search of a better life. Millions of uprooted families flee their homes in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, East and West Africa to escape conflict, persecution and poverty. When children and young people feel that they have no choices or sense of a future, and where there are no safe and legal alternatives for migration accessible to them, uprooted children will take matters into their own hands, facing even greater risks of exploitation.2 While child protection systems in Europe have improved, and social inclusion has progressed with increasing access to education in some areas for refugee and migrant children, major gaps remain.
It is clear that migration is a gendered phenomenon. Gender roles, relations and inequalities often determine who migrates (whether voluntarily or forcibly), how they migrate, why they migrate, and where they end up. Gender influences the risks and threats both boys and girls experience on their journey as well as their coping and protective mechanisms.3 Migration routes can be particularly dangerous for adolescent girls, specifically those who are unaccompanied or separated.
They face a unique set of risks related to genderbased violence (GBV) before, during and after migration. Many are fleeing violence, including child marriage, in their home country, or are trafficked on their journey, which becomes yet another part of the violence they face. Reports indicate that nearly all women and adolescent girls who have taken the central Mediterranean route have survived sexual violence. A report from the Women’s Refugee Commission finds that men and boys are also subjected to high levels of sexual violence during the journey, particularly in Libya as the main transit country before Italy. Finally they remain at risk of exploitation and other forms of violence once they reach countries of arrival.
Key challenges within Europe’s migrant and refugee response include poor reception conditions, limited comprehensive and appropriate services for GBV survivors, and persistent discrimination.