UNITED NATIONS -- If you want to know the impact of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the violence in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan, look to the next generation.
“Children do not bear any responsibility for the bombs and bullets, the gang violence, persecution, the shriveled crops and low family wages driving them from their homes,” the report says. “Their world is no place for a child.”
In a video sent to CBS News by UNICEF Communications Specialist Najwa Mekki, we meet one of the children who was among those interviewed for the report, Mustafa.
Of the estimated 50 million children worldwide who have fled their homes -- 28 million due to conflict and the rest to escape extreme poverty, trafficking kidnapping or rape, he’s one of the lucky ones.
Mustafa fled with his mother and some of his siblings when he was 13. His father is still in Iraq, his sister in Syria. He traveled overland from Syria to Turkey, by boat from Turkey to Greece, and was resettled with some of his family in Hof, Germany, a relatively small Bavarian town.
“I feel safe,” Mustafa says, a year after being resettled. He seems older than his now-14 years. He says he understands that people might fear the new refugees, and says it’s their “right” to ask questions.
“Maybe you’d think they’ll come here and blow themselves up,” he says, but then goes on to explain that he came because there is a war in his country, and “we’re people just like you.”
Emily Garin, a Policy Specialist in the Division of Data, Research & Policy at UNICEF, who was the principal author of the report, told CBS News that one of the biggest challenges still facing the agency “is that there are an unknown number of children who are migrating under crisis circumstances who don’t qualify for protection, and are then subject to the whim of immigration authorities.”
“Sometimes it ends well for children, they are allowed in and there is a recognition of their vulnerability; but many times it does not end well and children are treated as anyone else, and they can be sent back to places where their futures are uncertain, or in the worst cases, where their futures are certainly bad.”
While they are not refugees -- a definition granted only to those fleeing armed conflict -- Garin says these children are crisis migrants, and their plight is what UNICEF wants to highlight.
In a briefing to reporters, Justin Forsyth, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director said the report makes several recommendations for these children; protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence, end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, and keep families together and give them access to health and education.
In addition, the report recommends measures to prevent these kids becoming marginalized in their adoptive homes, and urges all efforts to resolve the wars and extreme conditions that lead to their exodus.
“What price will we all pay if we fail to provide these young people with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood?” asks UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
Most children are not as fortunate as Mustafa. Last year 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 different countries -- three times the number of the year before, and the numbers are rising.
The number of, without healthcare, and in many cases without proper processing, who have left their homes is staggering: 20 million international child migrants are on the run for reasons ranging from gang violence to risk of abuse, the report says, because they have no documentation.
They are, in essence, “falling through the cracks.”
Turkey hosts the largest total number of recent refugees and, relative to its population, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees.
The report also compares regions and countries: 1 in 5 people in Lebanon is a refugee. “By comparison, there is roughly 1 refugee for every 530 people in the United Kingdom; and 1 for every 1,200 in the United States.”
The 71-page report contains sobering statistics on child refugees and migrants around the world: 1 in 3 children living outside their country of birth is a refugee.
Because the U.N. General Assembly debate later this month will have twin summits on refugees and migrants -- one hosted by the U.N., another by President Obama -- the idea behind the report, Forsyth said, is to make sure refugee children are a large part of the focus of these debates when the world leaders gather on September 19 and 20.
The U.N. Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child offer protection to children by state parties, but the reality, Forsyth said, is different: the purpose of the report is to send a message that all children must be protected: “Let children be children.”