Children on the Move: Refugees and experts reassess the future of young migrants | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.06.2017
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Children on the Move: Refugees and experts reassess the future of young migrants

At the Children on the Move global conference in Berlin, NGO representatives and youth delegates called for the abolition of child detention. In Germany, quick access to education was found to be the biggest hindrance.

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Record number of lone refugee children crossed international borders

According to UNICEF figures, some 50 million children worldwide are currently "on the move." This includes children who have been trafficked, those who have migrated for economic reasons, as well as those displaced by conflict, violence and natural disasters.

Unaccompanied or separated from their families, many have been left without the platform to make their voices heard.

- UNICEF: Number of unaccompanied refugee children reaches 'record high'

- Conflict forces millions of children in South Sudan to flee homes says UN

Focusing on a broad range of issues including reception, education, health, integration and psycho-social support, at a two-day conference in Berlin some 300 representatives from governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies as well as 20 youth delegates met to assess the progress already being made and develop new strategies for "children on the move."

"We should treat children first and foremost as children," Daniela Reale, Save the Children Lead on Children on the Move, told DW, adding that integration is "crucial."

"It's their big priority to be considered as children with the exact same ambitions and opportunities that any other child should have access to," she said.

Daniela Reale, Save the Children Lead on Children on the Move

Daniela Reale, Save the Children Lead on Children on the Move

One refugee in Germany, studying with the aim of becoming a lawyer, is 17-year-old half-Armenian, half-Iraninan Milena Franke.

Currently preparing for her high school diploma, the UNICEF volunteer said, however, that on arriving in Frankfurt 10 years ago it wasn't easy to access education due to the long process of gaining refugee status. Franke had to wait six months before she could go to school.

"This is still a problem," she told DW. "The biggest challenge for migrant children arriving in Germany is access to education. It's really difficult to immediately go to school. In the meantime you're just bored and missing your education," Franke said, adding that the curriculum content also needs to be improved.

"We also need better content for children with a migration background so they have a better understanding of the new culture they live in and so they can also learn the language quicker," she said, but stressed that refugee children shouldn't be separated.

"All the the students have to connect so we can achieve integration," Franke said. "We all have to work together."

- German schools face the challenge of integration

- How do Syrian refugees view the German school system?

Similarly, after fleeing war-torn Aleppo, 23-year-old Syrian refugee Abdul Karim Albrem had to wait more than a year before he could recommence his studies.

"This wait is all connected to policy and bureaucracy," he told DW.

Albrem, who arrived in Germany 18 months ago, is now calling on Germany's policy makers to speak directly with the country's youth refugees in order to improve the arrival and reception process.

"We tried through humanitarian organizations to find a solution but this hasn't worked," the social services student said. "Authorities are trying to achieve integration, but this doesn't come only from one side. We [the youth] have a valuable role which can really help in integration and decision making."

Read more: Life as a newcomer: Education

Solutions discussed at the conference to improve education for refugees included minimizing the bureaucratic process to obtain refugee status, potentially introducing a "cash for education" program to dissuade young refugees from working illegally to provide financial support for their families, providing structural support for teachers and implementing early childhood education for under sixes.

COTM Konferenz in Berlin

Some 300 experts and youth delegates discussed the main issues facing child refugees to provide solutions

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