ISLAMABAD: Children make up 58 per cent of all refugees from Pakistan, the highest proportion in the South Asian region, said a United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report on Wednesday.
In its report, the UN agency said there were close to 300,000 refugees originating from Pakistan last year. And children accounted for 58pc of them.
Insecurity and conflicts in various parts of the country have forced them to leave, although the country also continues to host a substantial number of refugees — nearly 1.6 million from other countries.
The report, entitled “Uprooted”, says conflicts in many Asian countries, high susceptibility to natural hazards and a large population all contribute to the huge toll of internal displacement within the continent.
Violence has internally displaced about 19.2m people across Asia, a staggering 47pc of the global total for similar internal displacements.
Asia is the birthplace of 43pc of the world’s migrants — around 104m people as of 2015. As in other regions, the majority of Asian migrants move within the region.
More than 59m Asians are living outside the country of their birth, but within the continent. Despite Asia’s wide geographic spread, there is a considerable amount of movement between sub-regions, with the largest single movement of people within the continent moving from Southern Asia to Western Asia.
The report says more than 40m Asian migrants have found new homes outside the continent. Half of these migrants move to Europe, making up the world’s second largest movement of people between major regions. An additional 15.5m Asians have moved to northern America.
Nearly 12m of the world’s child migrants live in Asia. This represents almost 40pc of all migrant children, although it is actually much lower than Asia’s proportion of global child population (56pc of all children).
Because of Asia’s large population, its child migration numbers point in two seemingly contradictory directions: it is home to the largest total number of child migrants in the world, but its children migrate at one of the lowest rates of all major regions.
There are a total of 12m child migrants living in Asia, 16pc of all migrants in the region. While these 12m children make up 39pc of the world’s child migrants, this proportion is notably below Asia’s 56pc share of the global child population.
The primary destinations for migrant children in Asia are indicative of two large trends influencing overall movement in the continent: labour migration and conflict-related displacement.
Saudi Arabia hosts the largest number of child migrants in Asia and the second-highest number of child migrants in the world, after the United States. Two other Gulf States, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, are also among the top hosts of child migrants in Asia.
In Asia, as in other regions, moving to a new country can offer great opportunity or tremendous peril for children. Whether Asian children are able to benefit from the great potential of their own education migration or their parents’ labour migration — or if they feel only the harsh effects of forced migration — depends on the decisions of the world’s leaders.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2016