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Displaced Children: Statistics 

In 2017 the cumulative total number of displaced people internationally reached 68.5 million, following a net increase of 2.9 million on the previous year. This total figure has increased by over 50% in the last ten years. Of these forcibly displaced people, 37.1% (25.4 million) were classified as refugees and 4.5% (3.1 million) were asylum-seekers whose refugee status had yet to be determined. The remaining 58% (40 million), were classified as internally displaced people, ie people displaced within the borders of their own country as a result of conflict. 

Some demographic information exists for these respective groups. However, the extent to which this information is available depends on whether data has been collected locally. The following estimates of the age profile of refugees and asylum-seekers have been made. 

  • The UNHCR has estimated that 52 percent of refugees in 2017 were under 18 years old. 
  • The UNHCR’s “conservative estimate” was that 173,800 asylum seekers and refugees were unaccompanied and separated children. 
  • The UNHCR notes separately that 45,500 children were recorded as seeking asylum in their own right. However, this figure does not include all countries and is considered by the UNHCR to be an underestimate of the total. 

UN Support for Displaced Children 

There are different facets to support provided by the UN for the needs of displaced children. The UN Secretary General and the General Assembly have attempted to coordinate the approach taken by UN members, as detailed below. In addition, multiple UN entities, such as UNICEF and the UNHCR, provide direct support to displaced children. The UNHCR was created with a specific mandate in 1950 to protect the rights and well-being of refugees, as well as supporting refugee return. In 2017, the global refugee population under the UNHCR’s mandate was 19.9 million. The UN also has peacekeeping operations around the world, including areas identified as home to a large number of displaced people, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Middle East. 

UK Government Policy 

The UK spent over £13 billion—0.7% of gross national income—on overseas development aid (ODA) in 2016. The majority of UK ODA (63.8%) was delivered through bilateral channels, while the remainder (36.2%) was delivered through multilateral organisations such as the International Development Association (part of the World Bank), the European Commission and the United Nations. The UK is the fourth largest humanitarian assistance donor by volume, after Turkey, the United States and Germany. The UK has also hosted refugees following applications for asylum. In the period from June 2017 to June 2018, 14,308 people were granted asylum in the UK, of whom 6,068 (42%) were under 18 years old. UK-hosted refugees initially receive financial support in the form of ODA. 

EU Humanitarian Aid 

EU institutions are the fifth largest donor of humanitarian assistance. For example, the EU and EU member states contributed €3 billion to the EU facility for refugees in Turkey and the EU regional trust fund in response to the civil war in Syria. The EU has also established two EU compacts with Jordan and Lebanon intended to support the education and employment of displaced people. A separate EU emergency trust fund was established in 2015 intended to address the causes of irregular migration and displacement in Africa. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, has said 8 percent of annual European Commission humanitarian funding was dedicated to supporting the provision of education in areas undergoing emergencies (€86 million in 2018).


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