Unicef UK calls for urgent action to keep children safe in wars and crises

3rd November 2015 - The number of children who have sought asylum in the European Union has almost doubled compared to the same period last year, Unicef UK revealed today, as it launched a briefing warning that children were facing more devastating wars and disasters than ever before.   

The leading children’s agency said between January and September 2015, some 190,000 children sought asylum in Europe, compared to 98,000 in the same period of 2014, according to the latest available Eurostat data analysed and collated by Unicef UK. In 2015, an average of almost 700 children per day are claiming asylum on European soil.  

Unicef UK revealed the extent of increasing dangers that are forcing families to make these perilous journeys in its briefing. One in ten of the world’s children is now growing up in a conflict zone – some 230 million children. In Syria, where many refugees are from, one in five children are forced to cross conflict lines to take exams. In Yemen, 573 children have been killed since the fighting escalated in March this year, more than four times the total in 2014. Humanitarian emergencies have also exacerbated existing risks of violence, exploitation and abuse – including child labour amongst Syrian refugees, trafficking in the wake of the Nepal earthquake, and sexual violence against girls during the Ebola epidemic.[1] 

“Children have been killed while studying in the classroom, recovering in hospital or sleeping in their beds. Many have been orphaned, forced to become soldiers, kidnapped, raped and traumatised”, said Unicef UK Deputy Executive Director Lily Caprani. “Protecting children from violence is life-saving, just as much as water, shelter and medicine, yet it isn’t prioritised in the same way. This has to change.” 

Unicef UK is calling on the UK Government to prioritise protecting children from violence, seizing the opportunity of the first World Humanitarian Summit next year. The briefing recommends that the UK should commit to: 

• protecting children from extreme violence – tackling the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, sexual violence and other grave dangers  

• protecting the schools that keep children safe – including endorsing new international guidelines to stop schools being used by military forces 

• protecting children who are torn from their families by wars and disasters.  

This includes the UK taking urgent action to provide safe legal routes for children fleeing conflict and persecution, so that children are not forced to risk their lives on dangerous crossings or into the hands of traffickers and smugglers. 

In emergencies last year, Unicef protected children from violence by providing over 3 million children with psychosocial support; placing 33,000 unaccompanied and separated children in alternative care; and reuniting 12,000 children with their families or caregivers. Unicef also secured the release of 10,000 children by armed forces or groups, and helped to reintegrate 8,000 children back into their communities.

The public can support Unicef UK’s call for the Prime Minister to protect children from violence in emergencies at unicef.uk/protect

Full Unicef UK Briefing: Keeping Children Safe in Emergencies


Notes to Editors: Spokespeople are available for interview, including Lily Caprani, Unicef UK Deputy Executive Director, who has just returned from Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan where she met children who are traumatised by war; Leah Kreitzman, Unicef UK Director of Public Affairs and Rob Jenkins, Unicef’s Representative in Jordan, who is in the UK for the launch of the briefing.  

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

[1] Figures on Yemen, Syria and number of children growing up in conflict and analysis on increased exploitation of children caught in crises from Unicef global sources 

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.   

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk 

About the World Humanitarian Summit 

The World Humanitarian Summit is an initiative of UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, bringing the world together for the first time to improve global humanitarian action and effectiveness. The Summit will bring together governments, humanitarian organisations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector, and will be held on 23-24 May 2016.