Mar 19, 2022 - World

UNICEF urges stronger safeguards for Ukrainian child refugees

Ukrainian children who fled the Russian invasion

Children who fled the war in Ukraine with Polish children on March 19 in Krakow, Poland. Photo: Omar Marques/Getty Images

UNICEF is urging countries accepting refugees from Ukraine to establish stronger safeguards for children at greater risk of human trafficking.

Why it matters: An estimated 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, UNICEF said in a statement Saturday. Improving coordination and screening at border crossings could identify children separated from their families before traffickers can take advantage of them.

By the numbers: More than 500 unaccompanied children were identified leaving Ukraine and entering Romania as of March 17, but the actual figure is likely much higher, according to UNICEF.

  • Save the Children, a charity, estimated that 100,000 children live in orphanages and institutions in Ukraine.
  • An analysis by UNICEF and the Inter-agency Coordination Group against Trafficking determined that 28% of all trafficking victims globally are children.

Details: UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are setting up safe spaces for children and women called “Blue Dots.”

  • The spaces will offer information and services to refugees, as well as identify unaccompanied children to ensure their protection.
  • Some have already been set up in countries accepting Ukrainian refugees. More are planned in the coming days, including 34 in Poland.

What they’re saying: Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia, warned of “an acute child protection crisis” if more is not done to improve coordination efforts and screening for vulnerability.

  • “Displaced children are extremely vulnerable to being separated from their families, exploited and trafficked. They need governments in the region to step up and put measures in place to keep them safe.”

Go deeper: "Refugee groups warn of trafficking risk for fleeing Ukrainians."

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