Volunteers at Doctors of the World help child refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as well as Libya, Eritrea and Somalia. Dr Sarah Dickson will be speaking on their behalf at the upcoming Royal Society of Medicine conference, The Challenges of Child Refugee Health: Everyone’s responsibility. It will take place in London on Tuesday October 17th 2017.
‘Medics have seen children suffering from infections like gangrene, parasites and dietary deficiencies but also mental health issues caused by the stress of their journey, or traumatic events before they even started out. If they come from war-torn countries, they may have seen a lot of extreme violence and death. It is becoming increasingly recognised that migrants, including children and young people are at risk of severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is becoming increasingly recognised that migrants, including children and young people are at risk of severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Most people DOTW medics see in the Greek camps need counselling of some sort.
Many children travel unaccompanied without any adult guardian at all and the situation for them can be very bleak. One in every 13 people who claimed asylum in Europe in 2015 was an unaccompanied child, and since 2014 it has been estimated that around 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have gone missing in Europe. Some may become the victims of traffickers, potentially exposing minors to rape, sexual violence, infections and pregnancy. In my personal experience in Calais, refugee camps are not sanctuaries and can be very violent places. The desperation that causes people to flee their homes, does not necessarily end at the arrival to a camp or western country.
Children can be on their own for a variety of reasons. They may have lost all their adult family members in tragedies on the way, for example boat capsizes in the Mediterranean. Some may start the journey to Europe alone as families can only afford to send one member to safety- a terrifying thought for any parent.
Some may start the journey to Europe alone as families can only afford to send one member to safety- a terrifying thought for any parent.
When these child refugees reach the UK, there are more obstacles to overcome. The general public mood has arguably changed from sympathy to a feeling that there isn’t any more room or capacity to help. Funding has been cut. Changes in legislation mean that undocumented migrants find it harder to access free healthcare and public services- children are not exempt.’