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Ukraine: Urgent and extra support needed for separated and unaccompanied children, says UN child rights committee

GENEVA (24 March 2022) – One month after the Russian Federation began its invasion of Ukraine, around one hundred children have been killed, thousands injured, and many more displaced or separated from their parents and family. The UN Child Rights Committee today asked States to provide core and integrated support to traumatised Ukrainian children, especially those who are unaccompanied. The Committee issued the following statement.

“Since the start of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine one month ago, the world has witnessed a child rights crisis on a massive scale.  It is currently estimated that around 100 children have been killed and 1.5 million children have left the country to seek safety and protection. It is not possible to ascertain how many children have lost or been separated from their parents, siblings and other family members, but it is known the numbers are distressingly high.

These atrocities have demolished the foundations of the Ukrainian society including infrastructures for child protection, education and health. The consequences are irreparable, as the children in Ukraine are severely traumatised, the adverse impact of which will be borne by generations of Ukrainians to come.

In a statement issued earlier this month, the Child Rights Committee highlighted that the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine is in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Bearing in mind that Ukraine has one of the largest numbers of children without parental care in Europe, the Committee is especially distraught because of the harm and suffering of these children and the risk they are facing inside and outside the Ukrainian borders. Children in institutions, children with disabilities and long-term illnesses, and those deprived of liberty are among the groups of children that have diverse and complex needs which must be met to ensure their life, survival and development, including a sense of security, continuity and stability. Additional concerns relate to Roma and other minority, stateless and/ undocumented children who are equally exposed.

While the Committee applauds the generous response of mostly European countries in receiving displaced families and children from Ukraine, it considers it to be of paramount importance that all children, including unaccompanied children, are cared for in a supportive community and family-based environment and in accordance with international standards of care. All children who are unaccompanied or separated need a core package of integrated social services, including healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, nutrition, education, housing, financial support and legal aid, without discrimination. To this effect, States should develop national strategies for the inclusion of unaccompanied, asylum-seeking and refugee children into national child protection systems in a non-discriminatory manner.

The Committee urges the receiving States to take immediate measures to protect all unaccompanied and separated children who, due to their vulnerability, are inevitably at risk of trafficking, exploitation and abuse. The measures should include international and regional cooperation and coordination across borders for identification, registration and tracing of children with the aim of ensuring that no child is unaccounted for, and to enable and support family reunification, having the best interests of the child taken as a primary consideration.”

ENDS

For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:

Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 / vivian.kwok@un.org  or UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / ohchr-media@un.org

Background: 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.