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UNHCR statement on protecting children fleeing Ukraine

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UNHCR statement on protecting children fleeing Ukraine

13 May 2022

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has called on charities and volunteers seeking to help children fleeing Ukraine to work with the Child and Family Agency and national child protection systems to ensure that the best interests of children are fully protected.

As the war in Ukraine enters its third month, the Agency cautioned that moving children without parental care opens them to heightened risk of exploitation.

“Children forced to flee home as refugees face heightened dangers to their safety and wellbeing”, said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. “The risk of trafficking soars and they face much greater risk of violence and abuse.”

UNHCR and UNICEF recently issued a joint call for action to protect children fleeing from war. It is estimated that 90 per cent of those who have fled Ukraine to date are women and children. While recognizing that, under specific circumstances, humanitarian evacuations can be lifesaving and welcoming efforts to bring children to safety, the Agency said it is critical that special measures be taken in the best interest of the children. The consent of their parents or persons responsible for their care must be sought and granted. Under no circumstances should families be separated as a result of relocation or evacuation movements. If it is a case that children do arrive in Ireland by themselves, UNHCR urged people to immediately report their presence to the Irish authorities.

“Children escaping wars and conflict are in a very dangerous situation, where traffickers and other criminal organisations can exploit them in the chaos and confusion that ensues. This is particularly true of children not under the care of their parents, which is why the utmost caution should be observed by all those wishing to support them.”