Unaccompanied children and youth

40% the world’s forcibly displaced population are children (between 30 and 34 million children). Youth (aged 15-24) also constitute a large proportion of population affected by forced displacement. Many will spend their entire childhoods away from home, sometimes separated from their families, and losing on education and many other opportunities.

UNHCR is committed to ensuring that children, adolescents and youth are protected from harm and that their rights are upheld through the provision of psychosocial support and targeted programmes to meet their specific protection and developmental needs. We work with families, communities, national authorities, other international and local organisations, and with children, adolescents and youth themselves.

UNHCR places special focus on education of refugee children. In 2019, more than 1.8 million refugee children of school age (48%) were out of school. At primary level, the gross enrolment of refugee children stands at 77%, at secondary level this percentage is only 31%. Only 3% of refugee youth are enrolled in higher education. For more information, see UNHCR report Coming Together for Refugee Education.

Refugee and migrant children in Serbia have access to all levels of education. This is provided for in the Constitution and the national law, and Serbia was one of the first countries that started enrolling refugee and migrant children into schools in early 2016. The line ministry developed special Instructions for inclusion of refugee children into regular education and as a result, refugee and migrant children have been attending classes together with their Serbian peers. Most of them are attending primary schools, and a certain number also attending secondary education. In 2021, UNHCR is working with a variety of national stakeholders towards inclusion of refugee and asylum seeking children into tertiary education.

Given the restriction of movement due to the pandemic, the refugee and migrant children in private accommodation and in the centres were donated computers to be able to follow the classes together with their Serbian peers.

UNHCR has a long standing cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs. In recent years, UNHCR and its specialized national partner IDEAS invested efforts into strengthening the national refugee and asylum-seeking child protection system, notably through the project “Strengthening Child Protection and Inclusion of Refugee Children in Serbia”. The non-binding Guidelines, based on the Serbian legal framework and the relevant international instruments, were developed in cooperation with the Ministry and it supported implementation from the very start. The Guidelines offer the experts in social welfare centres detailed instructions for action in various situations involving UASC, and address their roles as a guardianship authority. Thanks to this effort, additional guardians were employed and trained to work with this specific group. UNHCR is satisfied that the Ministry recognized the value of this project and is actively contributing to its advancement. In late 2020, the Ministry has mainstreamed the Guidelines into the national child protection system and continues close collaboration with UNHCR and IDEAS.

In line with its strategic objectives, UNHCR has continued to expand its contacts with educational institutions at all levels, seeking also to engage youth organizations and UN Volunteers to increase outreach to young people.

For more information for refugee and asylum-seeking children see Help.org