At the beginning of September, the United Nations’ children’s fund Unicef presented the report “Uprooted”. Its shocking message was that there are almost 50 million displaced children and young people worldwide, with 28 million of these fleeing from terror and violence.

When compared with the United Nations’ worldwide refugee figures, it is seen that every second refugee or displaced person in the world is a minor. This makes the percentage of children and young people disproportionately high. Unicef states: “These children may be refugees, internally displaced or migrants, but first and foremost, they are children.”

The UN organisation urges governments to provide better protection from violence, exploitation and above all human trafficking to the affected children, in particular those unaccompanied by adults. And the detention of children must be ended.

Children must be kept from being separated from their parents during border control processing and any migrant legal processes. “All practical measures” must be taken to reunite children with their families. And measures must be taken to combat the causes of conflicts and extreme poverty. Measures against xenophobia, discrimination and marginalisation are also needed.

Referring to figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the report says that 15,000 refugees and migrants were recorded dead or missing between 2014 and 2016. Around two-thirds of all recorded deaths of migrants occurred in the Mediterranean. According to estimates, one-third of those who died in the Aegean Sea were children.

In view of these figures it seems cynical that the discussion about refugees in a number of EU countries is focused on allowing as few people as possible into Europe. So, on the occasion of his visit to Poland on the World Youth Day at the end of July, Pope Francis said there should be “a readiness to accept those who are fleeing war and starvation,” during his meeting with polish leaders.

In the Last Judgement, as described in the Gospel of St. Matthew, the criterion for who will be saved or damned is not a person’s affiliation to any religion but whether that person had helped a neighbour in need.

A sign of Hope: In his State of the Union Address on 14 September 2016, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed the establishment of a European Solidarity Corps. Young people across the EU should be able to volunteer their help “where it is needed most, to respond to crisis situations”. This European Solidarity Corps should be up and running by the end of the year, with the first 100,000 young volunteers taking part by 2020. This would at least be a sign of “European humanism”, provided that priority is placed on taking in and caring for refugee and migrant children and young people.

 

 Martin Maier

JESC