A group of young migrants. (Photo: UNICEF)
A group of young migrants. (Photo: UNICEF)

More than half of a group of 4,000 young migrants and refugees said they were forced to leave their country of origin, and 44% of them traveled alone, according to a new UNICEF survey.

A report released recently by UNICEF titled 'A Right to be Heard: Listening to Children and Young People on the Move', analyzes 4,000 responses from young self-identified refugees and migrants between the ages of 14 and 24. The report revealed that more than half of them were forced to leave their countries of origin, and 44% of them traveled alone. 

The report offers an alarming vision of the challenges and hardships that young refugees and migrants face during their migratory journeys in search of safety and a better life. The data was gathered in the past three months via an online survey completed by 4,000 young people who self-identified as migrants who were 65% male and 35% female. The results of the survey highlight the shortcomings of migration policies and in support and services available to young migrants. 

Survey results 

The results indicated that 57% of respondents said they were forced to leave their home country due to conflict or violence, and 44% of the respondents left their country of origin alone (49% young men and 37% young women). The report also demonstrated that 58% of respondents said they had missed one or more years of school. Among those who left their homes due to war, conflicts or violence, eight in 10 had missed more than one year of school, and four in 10 had missed four or more years of school. 

Forty-nine percent of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to, and 38% did not receive help from anyone (family, friends, or institutions). Sixty-five percent of families approved the respondents' decision to leave, but if given the chance, only one in two migrants would advise their own family and friends to leave. About 90% of survey respondents were from countries in Africa (27%), Asia (33%) and Europe (29%). There were respondents both from countries of migrant and refugee origin, such as Syria or Ukraine, as well as migrant host countries, such as Germany, Turkey, and Uganda. 

Appeal to governments to give priority to minors 

"While politicians are squabbling over migration, 4,000 uprooted children and young people are telling us they need more support," said Laurence Chandy, Director of Data, Research and Policy for UNICEF. "We must do a better job of listening to and engaging with those whose lives hang in the balance. As this poll shows, uprooted children can teach us a great deal about their needs and vulnerabilities if we are willing to hear them." 

Worldwide, there were 30 million children living outside their countries of origin in 2017, about 12 million of whom were refugees and asylum seekers. UNICEF continues to urge governments in countries of origin, transit and destination to prioritize the best interests of children in the development and application of migration policies and procedures, to keep families together, to end immigration detention of children and families, and to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement.

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