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This region has the highest numbers of refugee children around the world, which is why humanitarians in the UAE are coming together to host a region-first high-profile conference.
Hundreds of world leaders, policy makers, government representatives and UN ambassadors have been invited to the ‘Investing in the Future’ conference in Sharjah next month, to be held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
The conference is being organised in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)office; and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children Shaikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, Shaikh Sultan’s wife, and the campaign she orchestrates, the Big Heart for Syrian Refugee Children.
UNHCR spokesman Mohammed Abu Asaker said the two-day conference on October 15 and 16 would be the first in the region to focus on the protection of refugee children.
Asaker said there are 2 million registered child refugees in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region alone, while refugee numbers are the highest since the crisis during World War II. “This region has the highest (refugee numbers) in the world, we’re talking about the humanitarian situation of Syria, it’s the biggest humanitarian situation UNHCR has ever faced. These are scary figures ... ”
Ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and Libya are also causes for concern. “Since the beginning of this year, more than 1.8 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes as a result of ongoing fighting. These are the horrific numbers going on, in Libya ... in 2014, there are more than 20,000 newly-displaced people.”
UNHCR had registered 8,000 children crossing borders unaccompanied in recent times. “The majority of them are Syrians. Whether their parents are alive or dead ... we don’t know.”
Asaker said the conference, which will comprise about eight panel discussions, is intended to bring together leaders in the humanitarian field to find solutions to problems refugee children are currently facing, such as lack of education, healthcare, and a lack of documentation, making them stateless. “We don’t want to see children in the streets selling small things for small amounts of money, we want to see children sitting on seats in classrooms, learning and playing and thinking of the future of their countries.”
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