Why you should care about the child refugee crisis and how one student group are taking action.
More than half of refugees are children. That’s 50 million children worldwide who are fleeing conflict and poverty; 50 million children who are forced out of their homes by violence and deprivation, and 50 million children who are not attending school but making a difficult and dangerous journey crossing continents. This is the largest number of child refugees since World War 2. The scale of this problem is staggering.
Many of these children are unaccompanied, facing horrific risks such as that of trafficking, alone. Crossing seas in vessels not fit for purpose is one of the largest risks they face. Perhaps one of the most poignant statistics I have found is that an average of 2 children drown every day trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Another major implication for these individuals, and for society, is their lack of education. Refugees are 5 times more likely to be out of school than the global average and only 20% of refugee children are able to attend secondary school. With 1 in 200 children being refugees, that’s a large portion of the future generation who will enter economic activity lacking qualifications and basic skills.
The harrowing documentary ‘War Child’, which follows the journey of 3 children from the Middle East, highlights many of the physical and emotional traumas these children go through. There are moments of normality, of friendship, and of games. However, the game they play involves roleplay, with one child as a policeman expelling the others from a country they have snuck into. It is a game no child should know how to play. This is an all too real reminder that for them this is their normality.
A humanitarian crisis like this demands immediate, international action. Unfortunately, our country and many other European countries are not responding as they should. 95% of Syrian refugees are in just five countries; Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. In 2016, the UK reserved 3000 places for unaccompanied refugee children under the Dubs scheme. Only 300 of these places were filled. No refugee children were brought into the UK under the Dubs scheme in 2017. We need to put pressure on our government to do better.
On the 3rd of December, members of the University’s Amnesty International Society plan to walk from Southampton to Winchester in aid of ‘Save the Children’ and to raise awareness of the crisis. The event is one of a series that they have organised in line with the issue of Child Refugees.
Vice President Sophie Howard explained:
My inspiration for the walk came from studying the journey refugees take in order to find refuge in Western countries. Refugees find themselves traversing thousands of miles across Europe in search of asylum, facing arrest and deportation every day as well as agonising poverty.
Sophie said that she and the group wanted to pay tribute to these people by setting themselves a physical challenge, albeit a small one, whilst raising money for a worthy cause. The extremely worthy cause she speaks of is the ‘Save the Children’ Syria appeal, which raises money for displaced Syrian children across Europe and the Middle East.
So, educate yourself. Grab some colourful paint and a placard, don your walking boots, sign a petition, donate your old clothes or pledge the change that you would use for your next latte. Do whatever you can to help one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet, living as children should never have to live.