Abuse in the Lives of Young Refugees and Migrants

Young refugees and migrants experience, what is increasingly termed in the global policy literature, ‘displacement’. The United Nations recognise that globally there are millions of people who are displaced, either through war and conflict, famine, running from persecution or violence (as in seeking asylum due to the way they are treated in their country of origin) or in seeking a better life. Children and youth may become displaced either within a family group, with a sibling or alone (unaccompanied). Displacement often means travelling long distances, over state and continental boundaries, through environments where there are multiple risks. It also means sometimes relying on untrustworthy, even criminal individuals, gangs or networks, paying money to gain transportation and being vulnerable along the way to a host of physical and human risks. Finally, even ‘places of safety’, do not always provide sanctuary for displaced people. In particular, refugee camps and other settlements can be violence and psychologically distressing places, but also, the assumption that people who purport to help refugees in such environment are altruistic and caring, does not hold up to scrutiny. Sadly, a minority of workers with displaced youth, even international peacekeeping forces, have been recently proven to be involved in abuse. In this section, we are going to explore these vulnerabilities and examine examples of children and youth who have reported their experiences of displacement.

A note on ethics and anonymity: Cases are used throughout this section and are there to prompt reflection, analysis and to challenge you; please note that all cases have been anonymised and, where information might include details that could identify individuals, it has been altered slightly to ensure protection to those involved.