UN refugee official urges attention to plight of children forced to flee their homes
“With 50 per cent of [the world's 21 million] refugees being children, we see not only children in the refugee camps and settlements, but also on the move,” Ruud Lubbers told reporters at a press briefing held in conjunction with the General Assembly's special session on children.
He added that many children were held in detention, sometimes alongside criminals. "This is totally unacceptable," he said.
Describing the agency's largest current operation, an effort to help some 1.25 million Afghans return to their home country, the High Commissioner said UNHCR planned to bring home 400,000 Afghans from Pakistan, 400,000 from Iran, 50,000 from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and 400,000 who were internally displaced.
While lauding the fact that so many Afghans would be able to settle back in their country, Mr. Lubbers called attention to the fact that the agency faced serious funding shortfalls.
Asked about allegations that women and children were abused in refugee camps in West Africa, Mr. Lubbers said there were reasons to be concerned about the problem, but an ongoing investigation had so far revealed that it was not as widespread as earlier reported. "But even one case is one case too many," he said, stressing that UNHCR adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy towards the practice.