chapter  1
8 Pages

Introduction

When I considered writing a book on refugee children, I was immediately confronted by questions concerning its scope and related questions regarding the definition of ‘refugee children’. The more I engaged in research on the topic, the greater the potential areas of investigation became. One could easily argue that one book alone would be totally insufficient to address the issues affecting refugee children even in one country or region of the world. At the time of writing, the everyday brutality of the situations in Darfur, Somalia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name a few, are giving rise to the forced displacement of thousands of people, many of them children, who cross international borders in the hope of protection. By the end of 2005, Afghanistan was by far the largest country of origin of refugees, with no less than 1.9 million Afghan refugees reported in 72 asylum countries (UNHCR, 2006a). All of these situations have a profound impact on children under the age of 18 who make up an estimated 44 per cent of the total population ‘of concern’ to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The scale and complexity of the field is indicated further by the considerable regional variation in the proportion of children involved and the types of displacement experienced. Those recorded as being ‘of concern’ to UNHCR include refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and stateless persons. The proportion of children in this overall population of approximately 20.8 million at the end of 2005 (UNHCR, 2006a) varies considerably from region to region with 54 per cent aged under 18 in Africa, 46 per cent in Asia and 25 per cent in Europe (UNHCR, 2006b, p22).